Fuel of the week: Vanadium

vanadium_star_pattern

The Neumann Drive uses solid fuel and electricity to produce thrust. Over the next few weeks, we’ll give you a taste of how different kinds of solid fuel fared in our lab tests.
The thing we’re trying our hardest to optimise is specific impulse which is measured in seconds. We measure how much specific impulse we achieve for a given fuel for each “pulse” of energy that we put into it.

This week’s fuel is Vanadium, one of our solid mid-rank performers.

Vanadium erodes like the well-behaved, light, refractory metal that it is. It is a medium-quality fuel, capable of about 4000s of specific impulse per pulse. Each pulse of about 42 joules will deliver about 2.5 newtons thrust over about 200 microseconds, and we did 5 pulses a second.

At 4000s specific impulse, Vanadium competes equally with a gridded ion thruster for fuel efficiency, without needing to muck around with tanks of expensive and rare xenon.

The below photo is a worn Vanadium cathode, with the classic “star” wear pattern that forms after many pulses.

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