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Center Innovation Fund: MSFC CIF

Pyroelectric Fusion Microthruster

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Project Image  Pyroelectric Fusion Microthruster

In line with NASA's Strategic Goal 3 and Objective 3.1.1("to create innovative new space technologies for our exploration, science, and economic future") this project aims to develop and produce a microthruster system using the desktop fusion device concept produced by UCLA (Observation of Nuclear Fusion Driven by a Pyroelectric Crystal. Naranjo, B., J.K. Gimzewski, and S. Putterman. s.l.:Nature, Apr. 2005 Vol. 434).This type of system utilizes a pyroelectric crystal and produces a small force. This project aims to develop and produce a microthruster system using the desktop fusion device concept produced by UCLA (Observation of Nuclear Fusion Driven by a Pyroelectric Crystal. Naranjo, B., J.K. Gimzewski, and S. Putterman. s.l. : Nature, Apr. 2005, Vol. 434).This type of system utilizes a pyroelectric crystal and can produce very small force making it useful for a propulsion system in microsatellite applications for Earth and other planetary orbits. The sun can provide a positive change in temperature, which would activate a pyroelectric crystal. A temperature cycle can produce a steady thrust for up to 15 hours, and then the thrust tapers off for 16 days. This would be ideal for microsat missions that require acceleration around the Earth for an extended period of time. This method will be ideal for future science missions using micro to miniature satellites. Using solar heating can eliminate some of the battery power needed for the satellite opening up more space for science payloads and other subsystems. The desktop fusion device concept developed at UCLA will be placed into a microthruster chamber. Once the microthruster is completed measurements such as the thrust, pressure, and temperature during operation will be taken. The experimental setup at UCLA was a little over 4 inches in length without tubing and cabling, which is an ideal length when compacted for a microsatellite mission. The body of the microthruster, including the area for the thrust chamber per dimensions established by the UCLA experiment, has been modeled for fabrication and can be easily rapid prototyped or machined at MSFC. Prior to ground testing the crystal will be characterized to show the charges produced for various temperature cycles. Setup for the ground testing would be conducted in a vacuum chamber, with the same conditions as the UCLA experiment. The main difference in the setup is the entire experiment for this project's setup would be surrounded by a thruster body.

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.

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