Space plasma power and propulsion group

Department of Nuclear Physics & Accelerator Applications

The Space Plasma Power and Propulsion (SP3) research group is at the forefront of research, development and testing of propulsion systems for spacecraft. Our expertise in plasma physics, electronics and RF power systems has led to new plasma thrusters and ion beam systems for surface processing and analysis.

Inventions and innovations from the SP3 group can be found in industrial products and research laboratories around the world. Emerging projects centre around Earth to Moon and Mars and include lunar habitat design parameters, lunar environment and regolith for testing autonomous vehicles and supply chain challenges in getting to Mars.

SP3 has invented the world's first Helicon Double Layer Thruster (HDLT). This new propulsion concept has the potential to propel humans to Mars and beyond and greatly decrease the costs of maintaining satellites and spacecraft in their desired orbits.

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A new concept in electric propulsion, the DS4G ion thruster for interplanetary space craft was successfully tested in late 2005 by the European Space Agency and the Australian National University. Under contract to ESA, the experimental ion engine was developed and manufactured at the ANU.

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Since 2004 SP3 has been developing a new generation of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. We are applying our expertise in plasma physics, plasma chemistry and materials processing to the manufacturing of efficient PEM fuel cells based around plasma processing techniques.

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Updated:  23 January 2022/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster