NASA holds the current record for most fuel efficient drive, with its HiPEP (High Power Electric Propulsion) system. The idea of an Ion drive is that it uses electricity and a material to propel ions out of a funnel in order to focus the created momentum, and with the HiPEP allowing 9,600 (+/- 200) seconds of specific impulse the drive is a pretty strong contender for space travel. Seems like its record could be destroyed though according to a student newspaper Honi Soit.
The paper states that the new drive developed by Sydney PhD Student Paddy Neumann, which reports stating that its specific impulse reporting up to 14,690 (+/- 2000), almost one and a half times the record held by NASA.
What is more impressive about the drive is that NASA’s HiPEP system uses xenon gas, while Neumann’s drive can run on a range of metals, the best results are apparently achieved using magnesium, a metal that is commonly found in space junk and could be used to power the system using old satellites left in orbit.
With the possible ability to not only help clean up space but also create a new and more powerful engine that could soon be used to power the craft of the future, not bad Mr Neumann, not bad at all.
Image courtesy of NASA.