Little Ionic Thruster Blows Out Candles With Ease

Want to generate some thrust by way of an exposed high voltage discharge that looks great when you turn down the lights? [Integza] has a video showing how to do exactly that with some simple components. His little thruster manages to blow out candles at surprising distances before being pressed into service propelling a model boat.

Here’s how it works: ionic wind is generated when a strong enough electric field causes nearby air to ionize, for example from sharp tips of a conductor carrying a high enough voltage. This discharge creates ionized air molecules with an electrical charge matching the polarity of the nearby conductor. Because matching polarities repel one another, the small cloud of ionized air molecules are repelled from both the nearby conductor, as well as from each other.

The result is a wind-like force from a device with no moving parts, and if the parts are structured right, it’ll blow out a candle with ease. [Integza] attached a cheap DC high-voltage transformer to a nickel strip cut into sharp points and rolled into a circlet. The other half of the thruster — in contrast to the thin crown of sharp points — is a smooth ring shaped a little like a thruster nozzle. 3D models of the parts are  available online should you wish to try it yourself without all the trial and error of trying to optimize.

In an effort to minimize mass, [Integza] electroplates a 3D-printed version of the large ring with great results, spraying it with graphite first to make it conductive. Cheap and safe copper electroplating is entirely within the reach of hobbyists, and the resulting unit does a pretty nice job. You can watch it in action in the video, embedded below.

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It Has Blades: Dyson’s Little White Lie


‘There’s a sucker born every minute” -P.T. Barnum

This morning we’ve been having a heated discussion at the Hack a Day offices (read: legion of doom) over Dyson’s new offering, a “bladeless fan”. At first this seemed extremely exciting, but how is the air being moved? We were hoping for a device operating via ionic wind but that’s simply not the case. Some of us think the bladeless claim is an outright lie, others understand it from a marketing stance, but we all agree: a fan with blades is still moving the air.

Dyson’s own information page states that “an energy efficient brushless motor” draws the air in with similar technology used in “superchargers and jet engines”, both of which use blades! The fan blades are in the base of this unit, they take in air and blow it out the ring. Just because you can’t see a fan, can we call our computers bladeless, or an air conditioner bladeless?

Enter the P.T. Barnum reference. Known as a man who could sell anything, his legacy lives on in the Dyson corporation. At 200 british pounds (~$320) for a ten inch desk fan, what are you getting that’s better than a traditional fan?  The design supposedly amplifies the air movement fifteen times, but we’re skeptical about that figure as there’s no energy-saving claim to go along with such an incredible power boost. One thing is certain, you will NOT get a fan without blades for your sterling… just one with hidden blades plus a huge marketing campaign.

[Thanks Gareth]