Imagine an engine that doesn’t need fuel. It sounds impossible, and it probably is. That doesn’t stop one NASA engineer from testing theories around the EmDrive, a conceptual “propeller” engine that could defy the laws of physics. Such a creation would allow us to travel to the far reaches of space and would be the most exciting technological achievement of the century.
What is an EmDrive?
In 2001, British scientist Roger Scheuer suggested that we could create thrust by pumping microwaves into a conical chamber.
Scheuer suggested that the microwaves would theoretically reflect exponentially off the walls of the chamber, creating enough thrust to power a spacecraft without fuel.
Some researchers claim that they were able to create thrust in the EmDrive experiments. However, the power was so low that detractors believe that the jolt could have even been caused by an outside influence. It could be seismic vibrations or the Earth’s magnetic field.
Over the past few months, several engineers and scientists have expressed conflicting opinions about EmDrive.
Some say it’s impossible, while others continue to work on what may prove to be a futile task, justifying their work by saying the payoff would be enormous.
According to New Scientist , the latest is NASA engineer David Burns .
“The engine itself could accelerate to 99 percent the speed of light if you had enough time and energy,” Burns told New Scientist.
However, it must be huge – 200 meters long and 12 meters in diameter – and powerful, requiring 165 megawatts of power to generate a thrust of only 1 newton . This is about the same amount of force that humans use to type on a keyboard.
Consequently, the engine will only be able to reach high speeds in space without friction.
As Futurism writes , the engineer proposes to accelerate the loop of ions to nearly the speed of light before changing their speed – and hence their mass, according to Einstein’s law of relativity.
Theoretically, this would cause exponential forward thrust without any need for fuel.
“I’m comfortable throwing it out there,” Burns told New Scientist . “If anyone says it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to say. It was worth it.”