Paulo Lozano Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Lozano, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, is designing tiny ion thrusters to cheaply and efficiently propel shoebox-sized satellites, known as “CubeSats,” through space. The thrusters, which can run on solar power, contain a small amount of liquid propellant that, when electrified, creates a stream of ions that are released from microscale nozzles as puffs of charged gas — generating a thrust that can propel a small satellite forward.

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Lozano holds a prototype of a microthruster, developed to propel small satellites in space. Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Mini ion thrusters are manufactured using micro-manufacturing techniques. This image shows an example of the different parts comprising a thruster. The finalized device is at the bottom right, measuring 1 cm by 1 cm and 2 mm in thickness. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

A pair of mini ion thrusters, including their propellant tanks, is prepared for tests. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

A magnetically levitated small satellite inside a vacuum chamber simulates space-like conditions to test the performance of mini ion thrusters in the laboratory. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

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