Australia National University’s Plasma Research Laboratory has received a grant to help build its Helicon Double Layer Thruster (HDLT). If successful, the driver could be in space as early as 2013.
Because of the high temperatures generated in plasma drives, the trick is confining the hot gas without it destroying the chamber. For this, the HDLT uses a magnetic field in the source tube, where a gas like Krypton or Xenon is heated by a radio antenna. In space, the researchers hope that less than one gram of propellant would power a five-hour burn.