A prototype of the ‘impossible’ fuel-free engine that some say power a spacecraft to Mars in just 10 weeks. The design is now set to undergo peer-review. Many maintain the system goes against the laws of physics
An ‘impossible’ fuel-free engine, that could take humans to Mars in just 10 weeks, has been shown to work – but no one knows why.
The so-called EmDrive creates thrust by bouncing microwaves around in an enclosed chamber, and uses only solar power.
Many argue the concept is simply hype, pointing out that the design goes against the known laws of physics.
Now, one scientists claims he has a new theory that could explain exactly how the EmDrive would work.
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The idea for an EmDrive was proposed in 2000 by a researcher named Roger Shawyer.
Since then four independent labs, including one at Nasa, have recreated the drive.
They still, however, have no idea how it creates thrust.
The system is based on electromagnetic drive, or EM Drive, which converts electrical energy into thrust without the need for rocket fuel.
According to classical physics, the EM Drive 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 Dr Mike McCulloch of Plymouth University believes he has possible explanation for its behaviour.
His hypothesis is based on a new theory of inertia.
This describes the resistance of all massive objects to changes in motion or accelerations.
Why inertia exists at all has puzzled scientists for centuries.
McCulloch’s suggests inertia arises from an effect predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity called ‘Unruh radiation’.
The Unruh radiation effect states that if you’re accelerating in a vacuum, empty space will contain a gas of particles at a temperature proportional to the acceleration.
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