The ‘Impossible Drive’ might not be as amusing as the Improbability Drive but the former has just been upgraded to version 2.0. This is expected to be several times more powerful than the current model.
The ‘impossible’ EM Drive is a new kind of rocket engine that generates thrust without any kind of exhaust or propellant.
For those that are unfamiliar with this propulsion unit, the EM Drive was first invented by Shawyer back in 1999. Despite experimental evidence suggesting that such an engine could work, it’s been courting controversy ever since.
Why? Well, it just so happens to violate one of the most fundamental laws of physics we have: Newton’s Third Law, which states, “To each action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” – or, the each action has an equal and opposite reaction rule. This is why you can’t propel a sail boat by simply blowing on the sails.
The thing is that the EM drive is basically just that — blowing on your own sail and moving forward. Only this relies on electromagnetic waves.
After getting NASA’s seal of approval and successfully completing a 10 week-long trial, the engine’s future seems assured. Now the UK’s Intellectual Property Office has released the most advanced EM drive patient application to date — the work of the drive’s inventor Roger Shawyer.
Shawyer told the International Business Times.
The patent process is a very significant process, it’s not like an academic peer review where everyone hides behind an anonymous review, it’s all out in the open,”
Shawyer created the first EM drive — and a lot of controversy to go with it — in 1999. Since then, he’s been applying patents for each and every tweak he brings to the design. He says that millions of pounds rely on this procedure.
How the EM drive works
The way I understand it is that the EM Drive uses electromagnetic waves as ‘fuel’. It creates thrust by bouncing microwave photons back and forth inside a cone-shaped closed metal cavity. This causes the ‘pointy end’ of the EM Drive to accelerate in the opposite direction that the photons are pushing.
Where physics seems to be ignored is that the “equal and opposite reaction” dictates that something needs to be pushed out the back. The EM Drive doesn’t have an exhaust.
In the absence of an exhaust compound, it shouldn’t be able to generate thrust. Back in 2014 when NASA first tested the drive and made it work, they reported that:
Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.”
I think that’s long-hand for – it works, but not sure how or why 😉
Newton’s Third Law states that without an exhaust, you can’t produce thrust. The thing is that experiments from NASA and a number of other research teams from around the world have shown that not only can the EM Drive produce thrust. It can theoretically produce enough to power an entire spacecraft.
Using this to power spacecraft could remove a major hurdle in getting us anywhere else in the Solar System. That being the reliance on heavy rocket fuel.
The patent can be seen here.
Real space tourism is starting to look even more possible.