My buddy Dave sent this one in, and it deserves comment. Roger Shawyer, an English physicist, who has worked on such auspicious programs as Europe’s satellite navigation system (the Galileo project), is in the process of bringing to large-scale production a new type of engine he calls the “emdrive” — for “electromagnetic drive”.
This is an engine (pictured above) that uses microwaves (and blatant exploitation of Einstein’s laws of relativity) to propel the engine foward without any moving parts or fuel to speak of. A relatively-small electrical charge generates microwaves — using the same device found in the average household microwave — and protects them into a cylinder of just the right size and shape to cause the waves to resonate and multiply im intensity. Stir in some relativity principles, and the thing starts moving toward the fat end of the tube. Make it out of superconductive material that won’t bleed energy, and it starts moving fast. Now we’re cooking with … microwaves.
Check out the article Dave sent me from the NewScientistTech magazine.
Technorati tags: relativity, superconductivity, physics, electromagnetic drive, microwaves
I am curious about the benefits of this drive over an ion drive. Ion drives have been used for some time now by the former Soviets and now by the west.
The problem with both is the very modest amount of thrust you can get. I don’t think we will ever see them where drag and friction contribute (inside the atmosphere), but I do hope they play a much larger role in the commercialization of space.
A comparison was made in the article I cited between his first prototype and the ESA’s SMART-1 ion engine. Both required 700w of power, but his engine generated 25.7% more thrust, had an operational life 10x longer, and weighed 1/10th as much as the ion drive.
Re: thrust factor…
Compared to the 3mn (millinewtons) of thrust we got out of our latest solar sail attempt, his early prototype got 16mn of thrust using 1 kilowatt of power to the microwave generator. This was with a Q factor (index measuring the amount of power NOT lost by the container) of 5900. The second engine achieved a Q factor of 50k, bringing the thrust for 1kw of power up to 300 mn.
Now he’s working on equations using superconductors which point to the possibility of Q-factors into the billions. From the article: “he calculates that the thrust from a microwave engine could be as high as 30,000 newtons per kilowatt – enough to lift a large car.”
Now we’re talking!
OOPS, should have read the article first. Cool stuff (really cool) – current superconductors require liquid helium to get them in their superconductive range. And when they are, they have critical amperages, above which they lose their special powers.
I love this stuff, can you put your dinner behind the exhaust to cook it?
This is great stuff. One of the important parts of this is designing a chamber that has an extreemly high Q value (as Jeff stated) Such that the microwaves resonate. I liked the description in the article of having two plates of different sizes with the same amount of radiation hitting each one and thus the larger one moves more. Then connecting them yet the microwaves act as if they are not in a closed system, very cool and I hope it can be made to work in an atmosphere. Also might be a great tool to move earth-bound asteroids out of their path (if we can find them soon enough)
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