electromagnetic drive could make wings, wheels, combustion obsolete
A new breakthrough in propulsion technology may enable a fuel-free engine with no moving parts to use microwaves to push satellites through space and automobiles on earth. The science is complicated and controversial, but appears to be sound and takes advantage of Einstein’s landmark theory of relativity to turn contained microwaves into a propulsion system, in the form of a non-mechanical engine.
The electromagnetic drive (emdrive) system is revolutionary because it enables human technology to interact with the physical environment in ways previously only dreamed in science fiction. Observers have referred to it as a Star-Trek-style “warp drive”, though for now it is far less powerful.
It depends on relativity specifically, because the microwaves inside sealed and specially shaped drive capsules “propel” the engine not by pushing againt the air or the road, or the rarefied material of outer space, but exhibiting more force against one end of the interior of the drive capsule, playing on the separation between the “frame of reference” within which it functions and that of the air or space outside.
At present, the amount of thrust generated by the emdrive system is minuscule, about 300 millinewtons, not nearly enough to make an automobile go on the ground. New breakthroughs in superconduction could multiply that figure by millions of times, bringing the thrust to 30,000 newtons per kilowatt, “enough to lift a large car”, according to the New Scientist.
If the emdrive system can be magnified to such levels of performance, automobiles could be made to hover, no longer needing wheels, and aircraft could be held aloft, while liquid-hydrogen-powered turbines provide forward thrust, eliminating wings, blades and atmospheric contamination.
It is now clearly a concept that piques the interest of industry leaders, especially those who see a strategic or capital benefit. One Chinese firm has sought out the emdrive’s creator, as has US space agency NASA, believing it could revolutionize if not everyday locomotion then at least commercial satellite navigation and lifespan.
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Originally published September 27, 2006, at CafeSentido / Sentido.tv