A new propaganda video claims that scientists in China have created a working prototype of the ‘impossible’ fuel-free engine.
The radical EmDrive has been hypothesised for years by Nasa, but the space agency has been unable to create a working version.
If the physics-defying concept is brought to reality, it’s said the engine could get humans to Mars in just 10 weeks.
A new propaganda video claims that scientists in China have created a working prototype of the ‘impossible’ reactionless engine
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.
The implications for this could be huge.
For instance, current satellites could be half the size they are today without the need to carry fuel.
Humans could also travel further into space, generating their own propulsion on the way.
But when the concept was first proposed it was considered implausible because it went against the laws of physics.
Its allegedly fuel-free nature also means the drive may directly contradict the law of conservation of momentum.
It suggests it would produce a forward-facing force without an equal and opposite force acting in the other direction.
The video was posted by CCTV.com, and is titled ‘Propellantless propulsion: The Chinese EmDrive by CAST scientist Dr Chen Yue, China’s Space Agency.’
It claims that Chinese scientists have developed the EmDrive, and will soon put it into space – although it does not state any technical aspects of the device.
The EmDrive is an engine that provides thrust without the need for fuel.
Instead, it bounces microwaves – provided by solar energy – around in a closed container.
With no fuel to eject, the EmDrive would violate Newton’s third law, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This isn’t the first time that China has claimed to have made a working EmDrive.
In December, researchers with Cast confirmed the government had been funding research into the technology since 2010, and claimed they had developed a device that’s already being tested in low-Earth orbit, IBTimes UK reported.
And in November, anonymous sources told IBTimes UK that tests on the EmDrive were underway aboard Tiangong-2.
‘National research institutions in recent years have carried out a series of long-term, repeated tests on the EmDrive,’ Dr Chen Yue, head of the communication satellite division at Cast said at the press conference, IBTimes UK reports.
‘Nasa’s published test results can be said to re-confirm the technology. We have successfully developed several specifications of multiple prototype principles.
‘The establishment of an experimental verification platform to complete the milli-level micro thrust measurement test, as well as several years of repeated experiments and investigations into corresponding interference factors, confirm that in this type of thruster, thrust exists.’
A new propaganda video claims that scientists in China have created a working prototype of the ‘impossible’ reactionless engine. Pictured is a prototype of the EMDrive
THE NASA PAPER
The paper, which has now been published in the AIAA’s Journal of Propulsion and Power, describes a series of successful tests carried out at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Texas.
It outlines a experiments with a ‘closed radio frequency cavity’.
The paper describes how early tests of the system in a vacuum, recreating the conditions of the engine if were used in space.
Engineers carried out controlled bursts at 40, 60 and 80 watts, reporting that the thrust achieved in a vacuum was similar to the performance achieved in air.
The tests managed to generate powers of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt (mN/Kw), a fraction of the current state of the art Hall thruster, which can achieve a massive 60 mN/Kw.
But the researchers say that the lack of fuel consumption could make up for the drop in power.
Cast is a subsidiary of the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the manufacturer of Dong Fang Hong satellites.
According to Li Feng, chief designer of Cast’s communication satellite division, the team has built a prototype that so far generates just a few millinewtons of thrust, IBTimes UK reports.
For it to work on a satellite, they will need to bring the levels up to something between .1-1 Newtons.
This means they will have to improve the cavity design to reduce electrical losses, and develop a solution for the placement of the microwave thruster on the satellite itself.
‘This technology is currently in the latter stages of the proof-of-principle phase, with the goal of making the technology available in satellite engineering as quickly as possible,’ Li Feng said at the conference, IBTimes reports.
‘Although it is difficult to do this, we have the confidence that we will succeed.’
But Nasa research published in November was dismissed by many people who thought the results were an experimental error.
The Nasa tests managed to generate powers of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt (mN/Kw), a fraction of the current state of the art Hall ion thruster, which can achieve a massive 60 mN/Kw (illustrated)
This includes advanced propulsion systems expert Brice Cassenti, who says there is likely a ‘mundane explanation’ behind the findings.
But, while the expert argues that there’s a ‘slim’ probability that the results will hold up in further investigation, he also notes that ‘it’s not zero.’
The violations seen in the EmDrive concept would ‘invalidate much of the basis for all of physics as we know it,’ Cassenti, an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, told UConn Today.
Its publication means it has been reviewed by scientists independent to the study, adding to its credibility – but, this does not necessarily mean that the results are valid.
The technology has been dubbed the ‘warp drive’ for its similarity to the fictional propulsion system seen in the Star Trek series
As there is no ‘plausible proven physical explanation’ for the findings as of yet, either experimentally or theoretically, the expert says the results may boil down to an experimental error.
‘I personally believe that there is a mundane explanation for the results,’ Cassenti said.
‘For example, electric currents are heating components within the Drive that expand during the experiments, causing motion that would appear as a force.
‘It is very difficult to remove such effects, although the authors of the journal article tried to remove not only these thermal effects but also many other possible sources for experimental errors.’
According to Cassenti, it’s extremely difficult to be certain that all sources of error have been eliminated, and this can only be proven through independent tests of the hypothesis.
If the physics-defying concept is brought to reality, it’s said the engine could get humans to Mars in just 10 weeks
If the EmDrive results do turn out to be valid, the achievement ‘points to new physics.’
And while there have been circumstances where Newton’s laws have been found not to apply at high speeds, as in large gravitational fields and with tiny molecules, the researcher note that ‘Newton is still mostly right.’
‘Over my professional life, I have seen several of these exciting experimental or theoretical results reported in peer-reviewed literature,’ Cassenti said.
‘So far only the reality of black holes has come through.
‘So, based on my experience, the probability of this holding up under further analysis and testing appears slim. But it’s not zero.’