Plasmonic force space propulsion

Joshua L. Rovey, Paul D. Friz, Changyu Hu, Matthew S. Glascock, Xiaodong Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plasmonic space propulsion uses solar light focused onto deep-subwavelength nanostructures to excite strong optical forces that accelerate and expel nanoparticle propellant. Simulations predict that light within the solar spectrum can excite asymmetric nanostructures to create plasmonic forces that will accelerate and expel nanoparticles. A peak force of 55 pN Wis predicted for a 50-nm-wide, 400-nm-long nanostructure that resonates at 500 nm. Results for a conceptual design of a plasmonic thruster that has 35 layers, 86 array columns, a multistage length of 5 mm, a 5-cm-diam light focusing lens, and uses 100 nm polystyrene nanoparticles expelled at a rate of 1 × 106 per second would have a thrust of 250 nN, specific impulse of 10 s, and minimum impulse bit of 50 pN · s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1168
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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