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The device is a popular science fair project for students. It is also popular among anti-gravity or so-called "electrogravitics" proponents, due to the research of Thomas Townsend Brown, who built these devices in the 1920s and incorrectly believed that he had found a way to modify gravity using electric fields.
The term "lifter" is an accurate description because it is not an anti-gravity device; rather, it produces lift using the same basic principle as a rocket, i.e. from the equal but opposite force upward generated by the driving force downward, specifically by driving the ionized air downward in the case of the ionocraft. Much like a rocket or a jet engine (it can actually be much more thrust efficient than a jet engine), the force that an ionocraft generates is consistently oriented along its own axis, regardless of the surrounding gravitational field. Claims of the device also working in a vacuum have been disproved.
Ionocraft require many safety precautions due to the high voltage required for their operation; nevertheless, a large subculture has grown up around this simple EHD thrusting device and its physics are now known to a much better extent.