Dr. Fatima Ebrahimi, an Iranian-American, has invented a fusion rocket that would allow humans only one day to reach Mars. Dr. Ebrahimi works with the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
The device utilizes magnetic fields to shoot plasma particles from the back of a rocket to propel the craft through space. The particles will be accelerated using magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is found throughout the universe, including on the surface of the sun. It refers to a phenomenon in which magnetic field lines converge, separate, and then join together, producing energy.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory explains the following of the discovery, “Current plasma thrusters that use electric fields to propel the particles can only produce low specific impulse, or speed. But computer simulations performed on PPPL computers and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, showed that the new plasma thruster concept can generate exhaust with velocities of hundreds of kilometers per second, 10 times faster than those of other thrusters.
That faster velocity at the beginning of a spacecraft’s journey could bring the outer planets within reach of astronauts. ‘Long-distance travel takes months or years because the specific impulse of chemical rocket engines is very low, so the craft takes a while to get up to speed,’ she said. ‘But if we make thrusters based on magnetic reconnection, then we could conceivably complete long-distance missions in a shorter period of time.’”
Computer simulations performed on PPPL computers have shown that the new plasma thruster concept can generate exhaust with velocities up to hundreds of kilometers a second, 10 times faster than other thrusters. Ebrahimi explains that the faster the beginning of a spacecraft’s journey could bring other planets within reach of astronauts.
This discovery is impactful as humans attempt to reach other planets. Dr. Ebrahimi’s research will allow for utilizing different mechanisms to make the journey easier and faster.