2018/11/21: All aircraft engines work by pushing something backwards so that the craft moves forward. Usually this is air, whether cold air driven by electric propellers or hot air fired out by jet engines. Ion propulsion instead sends out charged particles or ions generated in the gap between two electrodes with a high voltage inbetween. The ions interact with the air, creating an ionic wind that is sent backwards, propelling the aircraft forward.
As with propeller-driven solar powered aircraft, ion drive craft are powered by electricity and so don’t need to carry fuel, other than batteries filled with charged particles. The new research shows that, with some clever modifications to the battery setup and the way the electrical power is converted, it’s possible to reduce the battery weight enough to make this technology fly.
To build an ion-powered airliner you would need to increased the amount of power relative to the craft’s size 300 fold.