Magnetohydrodynamic Propulsion Systems

In the movie Hunt for Red October, The Russians develop a secret weapon, a nuclear submarine that is as fast as modern ships, but completely silent. The technology behind this weapon is Magnetohydrodynamics, a way to propel a boat in salt water with no moving parts. We tested the validity of this run-silent technology on a smaller scale with a model boat. By changing the salinity of the water (1, 2 or 3 percent by mass) and the input voltage (15, 20 and 25 volts), we were able to optimize the conditions for maximum thrust. Measuring the system's thrust on the boat itself proved to be difficult, so we used an alternative method. In this method we dropped a plastic pellet into one end of the MHD system's submerged channel and found the time to reach the opposite end, giving us the average speed. We then performed a two factor Design of Experiment which yielded positive effects for both salinity and voltage on the velocity of the pellet. The effects were approximately equal, as salinity increased speed increased by 0.8875cm/s, and as voltage increased speed increased by 0.8133 cm/s. This means, to make the system more efficient, then these two factors would need to be maximized; however, excessive corrosion and noisy bubbles from electrolysis forced us to reject the idea that this system could power a submarine.

Research Done By:

Steven Sienkowski
Cousino High School

Mark Van Wingerden
Cousino High School