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Ion wind

Ion wind, ionic wind, or coronal wind is a stream of ionized fluid generated by a strong electric field. Francis Hauksbee, curator of instruments for the Royal Society of London, made the earliest report of electric wind in 1709.[1] Myron Robinson completed an extensive bibliography and literature review during the 1950's resurgence of interest in the phenomena.[2]

Electric charges on conductors reside entirely on their external surface (see Faraday cage), and tend to concentrate more around sharp points and edges than on flat surfaces. This means that the electric field generated by charges on a sharp conductive point is much stronger than the field generated by the same charge residing on a large smooth spherical conductive shell. When this electric field strength exceeds what is known as the corona discharge inception voltage (CIV) gradient, it ionizes the air about the tip, and a small faint purple jet of plasma can be seen in the dark on the conductive tip. Ionization of the nearby air molecules result in generation of ionized air molecules having the same polarity as that of the charged tip. Subsequently, the tip repels the like-charged ion cloud, and the ion cloud immediately expands due to the repulsion between the ions themselves. This repulsion of ions creates an electric "wind" that emanates from the tip, which is usually accompanied by a hissing noise due to the change in air pressure at the tip.

Unlike the functionality of the Electrohydrodynamic (EHD) thruster, the net force generated by an ion wind device does not rely on the momentum transfer between the charged and the neutral air molecules, but only on the impulse that the charged ions gain during their repulsion from the tip. It is analogous to recoil of a gun when it fires a bullet. Due to this property, ion impulse devices may find use in spacecraft propulsion, even though ion wind forces are much smaller than those of an EHD thruster operated in air.

See also


  1. ^ Robinson, M. (1962, May). History of the electric wind. American Journal of Physics, 30(5), 366-372.
  2. ^ Robinson, M. (1960, June 8). Movement of Air in the Electric Wind of the Corona Discharge. (AD0262830)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ion_wind". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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