What if there was an engine that would be fast and powerful enough to make interplanetary and even interstellar travel possible? There is indeed such kind of engine, which is called EM Drive or electromagnetic propulsion drive, and scientists now confirm that it actually works. According to the estimates, it would take four hours for the EM Drive to get to the Moon and 70 days to get to Mars.
Earlier this year, NASA scientists conducted a series of tests in a vacuum and announced that the controversial machine really does work. Now, researcher Martin Tajmar of the Dresden University of Technology in Germany also confirmed that the engine produces thrust. But first of all, let’s take a look at how the EM Drive works and why it is so controversial.
Why is the EM Drive considered impossible?
The EM Drive technology was invented by British engineer Roger Shawyer in the early 2000s. However, the invention was not taken seriously by the scientific community because it, in fact, violates a fundamental law in physics called the conservation of momentum. According to this law, to move forward, an object is required to have a propellant pushing it in the opposite direction. The EM Drive works without a propellant and uses solar energy instead. Its operation is based on electromagnetic waves, which produce electrical energy that is then converted into thrust. Basically, this means that the “impossible” engine operates without fuel.
What is no less controversial about the EM Drive is that scientists still don’t know how exactly it works. The most probable explanation is a process called vacuum polarization, which is believed to generate short-lived subatomic particles in the quantum vacuum. There is a theoretical possibility that the drive converts these particles into plasma and uses them as a fuel.
How powerful is the EM Drive?
The drive could produce thrust ten times greater than a modern ion thruster and several thousand times greater than a photon rocket. NASA Eagleworks researcher Dr. Harold White estimates that a manned mission would get to Mars in 70 days and to Pluto in 18 months while a trip to the Moon would only take four hours. As for interstellar travel, this space propulsion technology could make it possible to reach Alpha Centauri in just 100 years while it would take tens of thousands of years with the current technology.
The new findings
Martin Tajmar is probably the best person to evaluate the EM Drive – his scientific research is focused on “Breakthrough Propulsion Physics.” Unlike the Eagleworks scientists, he decided to investigate the possibility of space propulsion based on the negative matter (which is quite difficult to produce) from a theoretical point of view. As a result, he got a similar amount of thrust to what was originally predicted by Shawyer.
Tajmar presented his paper at the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition that took place on 27 July.
“Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EM Drive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements [sic] methods used so far,” he said. “Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena.”
The next step to the verification of the EM Drive is a peer-reviewed research, and Shawyer claims he will have it in a few months. However, even after that, the most probable is that the mainstream scientific community will avoid taking the drive seriously because this will lead to a real revolution in physics – something that, as you understand, is not welcomed by conservative scholars. In any case, let’s hope that one day the EM Drive technology will become a scientific reality and will pave the way for interplanetary and interstellar travel.