Natural Selection Among the Ions

Program Simulates Natural Selection To Improve Ion Engine Design.

New Scientist (5/24, Marks) magazine reported, “The life expectancy of a popular type of ion engine has been almost doubled using software that mimics the way natural selection evolves ever fitter designs.” Cody Farnell, a space flight engineer at the University of Colorado, used a “genetic algorithm” (GA) in order to change the girds typically used in ion engines, which typically last 2.8 years. The geometry and voltages of the grids were substituted for the genes the program typically simulates. If a configuration looked “promising, the ‘genetic material’ was subjected to further random changes,” ultimately leading to a configuration that could last 5.1 years if the simulation is correct. “The engine could be improved further, says Farnell, by evolving the other parts too.”

Reposted from ASEE First Bell for May 25, 2010

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