9 Feb 2016

How do EMDrives work?

The Universe according to Richard Pearson

IT IS A VAST Cosmos out there, the nearest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is so far away its light takes 4.3 years to reach us travelling at the speed of light, 300,000 Km/s, while our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 Ly across. Travelling over oceans of space requires speed and novel propulsion systems to allow spacecraft to reach speeds close to light velocity.

A radio frequency (RF) resonant cavity thruster is a proposed new type of electromagnetic thruster. Unlike conventional electromagnetic thrusters, they are designed to use no reaction mass, and to emit no directional radiation. Their design principles are not supported by prevailing scientific theories, and they apparently violate the law of conservation of momentum.

A few variations on such thrusters have been proposed. Aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer designed the EMDrive in 2001, and has persistently promoted the idea since then through his company, Satellite Propulsion Research.

Researchers say the new EMDrive could carry passengers and their equipment to the moon in as little as four hours. 


A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100 years.

Last summer the controversial design for the EMDrive received a boost as German scientists confirmed that it does in fact work.

The EMDrive propulsion system would permit travel at speeds until now only seen in science fiction.

The system is based on electromagnetic drive, or EMDrive, which converts electrical energy into thrust without the need for rocket fuel. 

The concept of an EMDrive engine is relatively simple. It provides thrust to a spacecraft by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container.

Solar energy provides the electricity to power the microwaves, which means that no propellant is needed.

According to classical physics, the EMDrive should be impossible because it seems to violate the law of conservation of momentum.

The law states that the momentum of a system is constant if there are no external forces acting on the system – which is why propellant is required in traditional rockets.

But subsequent tests - further backed up by this announcement - have shown that the idea could revolutionize space travel.

Bouncing microwaves around in a ‘closed container’ is strange idea, except in it is not actually a closed container, on the Quantum scale it is open throughout, and Quantum fluctuations are happening in the container.

In quantum physics, a quantum fluctuation (or quantum vacuum fluctuation or vacuum fluctuation) is the temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space, as explained in Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. It means that conservation of energy can appear to be violated, but only for small times. This allows the creation of particle-antiparticle pairs of virtual particles. The effects of these particles are measurable, for example, in the effective charge of the electron, different from its "naked" charge.

The copper and steel of the EMDrive has a molecular structure made up of atoms, at lesser scales the atoms are composed of smaller atomic particles, and there is a lot of empty space between the orbital electrons and the nucleus.

For example, the simplest atom is that of Hydrogen, it contains one neutron, and proton that make up the central nucleus, while there is a single electron in orbit around it. If the nucleus happened to be the size of an apple, then the distance of electron would be a third of a mile distant. That is a lot of empty space on the quantum scale of our Universe.

In my opinion on this atomic scale, while the drive is closed to the vacuum of space, microwaves are not, and can interact with quantum particles surrounding the EMDrive.

The space inside the EMDrive is not empty; it contains quantum pairs of atomic particles that the microwaves can interact with.

If physicists can better understand this process, much better propulsion systems can be designed to reach light speed in a shorter time so that we can reach for the stars.

Richard Pearson


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