Three magnetohydrodynamic propulsion projects

Today we’re publishing three articles on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) propulsion, a means of propelling a ship without moving parts like paddlewheels or propellers. Instead, MHD relies on passing electrical currents through the water, effectively turning the water itself into part of an electric motor, where the only thing that moves is the water.

Here’s a quick guide to the articles:

  • First Demonstrate magnetohydrodynamic propulsion in one minute. You’ll need a magnet, a battery, two wires, water, and salt and pepper.
  • Next, Build a simple boat that propels itself with a magnetohydrodynamic drive.
  • Finally Get serious, and start hacking magnetohydrodynamic propulsion systems into RC boats.

PS: Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arr.

MHD III: Hacking an RC Boat to use Magnetohydrodynamic Propulsion

Mod a cheap radio control boat into an RC magnetohydrodynamic vehicle.

This design serves as proof of principle for modding an RC vehicle to run on MHD. Rather than being a performance design, it travels at an astonishing speed of several feet per minute since it uses essentially the same design as our foam-tray MHD boat.

Read on to find out how we made the conversion, what worked and what didn’t, and how we plan to get some speed in the next revision.
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MHD II: Make a magnetohydrodynamic propulsion boat

After trying out our simple demonstration of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) propulsion, you might want to make something a little more “practical.” Here’s how to build a simple little boat that moves through salt water (at a snail’s pace) via MHD propulsion.

The craft is not designed for performance; it’s designed to demonstrate a functional MHD craft made with inexpensive, easily available materials. While it may move slowly, hey, it moves, and you can make it in about five minutes.
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MHD I: Demonstrate Magnetohydrodynamic Propulsion in a Minute

Rember the silent caterpillar drive from the movie The Hunt for Red October? The caterpillar drive was a fictional magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system. Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) propulsion is a means of using electrical current, instead of a noisy propeller, to push a ship through the water.
Surprisingly enough, a working example of this futuristic drive system is quite easy to build. Assuming that you’ve got the materials handy, you can build one in about a minute. You’ll need a strong magnet, two pieces of thick copper wire, a little dish of warm water, salt and pepper, and a regular battery.
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