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Insanely Fuel Efficient Engine Could Go To Mars And Back On One Tank Of Fuel: Sorry about all the doom and gloom posts today. Here is one y'all will like.

An ion engine that smashes the fuel efficiency record has been registered for an innovation patent. Inventor Patrick Neumann told University of Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit the drive could go to “Mars and back on a tank of fuel”, but its first application may be shunting networks of small satellites around in Earth orbit.

Neumann says the idea for the ion engine came to him as a third year student assisting a postdoc as part of a program to connect undergrads with real research. Neumann measured the speed of titanium ions released by a pulsed electric arc, similar to an arc welder. “The titanium was coming out at 20 kilometers per second [12.4 miles per second] and I thought 'you could use that for thrust',” he told IFLScience. In subsequent work Neumann proved his hunch right, eventually testing the suitability of 11 materials.

The results were dramatic. One measure of thruster efficiency is specific impulse, commonly called “bounce per ounce,” and is measured in seconds. The existing record is NASA's High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPeP) with 9,600 seconds, but fueled by magnesium Neumann's drive managed an estimated 14,600 seconds of specific impulse. He says “Other metals have lower efficiency, but higher thrust. So you would need more fuel to get to Mars, but could get there faster.”

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