EMDrive if you are not familiar with the term stands for Electromagnetic Drive and was invented by British electrical engineer Roger Shawyer back in 2001. It is an exciting and controversial propulsion technology that could get us to Mars in a matter of weeks, could make aircraft lighter and faster and possibly cheaper because it doesn’t use any fuel (yes you read that right).
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The technology has been met with lots of skepticism, even from leading science publications such as New Scientist but recently, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) have confirmed that they have received a peer reviewed paper on the propulsion method and that it will be published in December 2016 according to International Business Times, though no further details have been released.
The reason why it has been met with skepticism is that it is a propellantless propulsion system which doesn’t require any fuel and therefore appears to violate Newton’s conservation of momentum law which states that objects cannot move unless an external force is applied to it.
The name of the paper itself was revealed by a scientist on the NASA Spaceflight forum but was not meant to have been revealed and the comment was swiftly deleted. The post revealed that the paper is to be entitled “Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio Frequency Cavity in Vacuum.” which seems to indicate that research into the technology is progressing.
So how does the technology work, well if you want a more detailed explanation, scroll down and watch the video below by the inventor himself. But in essence, electricity is converted into microwaves and the microwave photons are fired against a cone shaped metal cavity. When the photons push against the large end of the cone it causes the small end to accelerate in the opposite direction.
The potential of this technology is massive if it comes to fruition. It has the potential to revolutionise the aerospace industry and could significantly reduce the costs of launching satellites into orbit. It could also speed up space travel and enable flying cars.
This propulsion system could be awesome if we get the technology to work, as carrying fuel is heavy and limits the fundamental speed at which spacecraft can go. Check out the video below and make your own mind up as to whether it’s possible, the inventor certainly seems to thinks so, but a lot of physicists disagree. I guess we have to wait until the paper is released in December to find out more. Let me know which side of the fence you are on in the comments.
Photo credit: SPR Ltd