In the 1944 SF story “Off the Beam” by George O. Smith, an electron gun is constructed along the length of a spaceship. In order to avoid being constrained by a net charge imbalance, it is built to also fire the same number of protons in the other direction, dissipating the mass of the “cathode”.
With current knowledge, is this plausible? That is,
- Can a practical (i.e., not built with unobtanium insulators) electrostatic device like an electron gun separate and accelerate electrons and protons in this manner?
- Can it actually disassemble solid matter? If so, how does the composition of the cathode affect the difficulty?