IMAGINE a car flying above flooded streets. Sounds futuristic? Not in a few years, thanks to the advancing technology of electrohydrodynamics (EHD) and ionocrafts.

Discovered by Dr. Paul Alfred Biefeld Thomas and Townsend Brown in the 1920s, EHD, also known as the Biefeld-Brown effect, is the observed behavior of ionized air particles.

According to theoretical Physics specialist Dr. Augusto Morales Jr., of the UST Graduate School, the effect relies mainly on ions. “A high voltage source is used to ionize, or charge the gas molecules in the surrounding space. Once they are ionized, they collide with each other causing the lifting effect,” he said in an interview.

In an August 2003 article in Wired magazine, scientists speculated that the Biefeld-Brown effect may be related to the concept of anti-gravity since an object appears to float without the aid of the air pressure. However, this assumption still requires proof.

Ionocrafts function under the principles of EHD. Made of sticks, balsa wood, aluminum foil, rings of copper wire, and direct current transformers, ionocrafts resemble an oddly shaped kite that levitates by using two parallel-charged electrodes to produce the Biefeld-Brown effect.

How high the ionocraft can levitate may be calculated using the formula for EHD propulsion where force is equal to the product of the current flow and air gap distance over the ion mobility coefficient of air. There is still no established ratio between voltage and weight capacity of an ionocraft, since its design and the current it uses also affects the lifting performance.

False alarm

International phenomenon

The promise of traveling without the aid of wings, propellers, and fossil fuel had lured many researchers to construct their own small-scale ionocrafts. There are 19 patented ionocrafts in the US alone. There are unrecognized designs from other countries.

Today, websites dedicated to ionocraft construction are flooding the Internet. detail minor studies conducted in countries that have experimented with ionocrafts, like France, Japan, Brazil, and even the Philippines, complete with photos and footages. However, their recommendations have been confined to making newer and sturdier designs to accommodate additional weight, due to limited equipment and manpower. One of the featured designs is the Vortex Lifter by Filipino inventor Mark Tecson. The Vortex Lifter is a more compact and burn-proof lifter, and produces less ozone compared to existing lifters.

According to Morales, although ionocrafts are fast becoming popular, few organizations are willing to invest in such projects. “Aerospace projects are rather expensive to fund so countries like the Philippines are not keen on funding them,” Morales said.

Because transformers and circuits needed to regulate the experiment are too expensive, ionocraft inventors can only create small-scale models. While a small-scale project would require only a transformer coming from the picture tube of a computer monitor, larger projects would need a more powerful source of electricity and therefore more complex equipment.

However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the US army have expressed interest in EHD by funding related experiments like the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project, which aims to create new spacecraft.

With environmental and economic issues like global warming and dwindling oil reserves, breakthroughs in technology like the ionocraft will hopefully alleviate these problems. Samuel Raphael Medenilla with reports from www. and

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