An engine that violates the laws of physics: the future has come today
This week the world scientific community has stirred up unexpected news. Chinese scientists have officially published experimental evidence that the EmDrive electromagnetic motor is actually working. A unique installation is capable, for example, of moving a spaceship in a vacuum ... without using fuel. So why did many scientists believe (and some continue to believe so far) that this invention is pure quackery?
How EmDrive Works
The concept of an electromagnetic propulsion system was first published back in 2002 by the British research company Satellite Propulsion Research, founded by aerospace engineer Roger Scheuer . Then the first working prototype of the device was presented to the public. Yes, yes, it was the famous "British scientists" who invented the fantastic engine, which caused a wave of skepticism from the scientific community.
The fact is that EmDrive challenges all existing laws of physics (we wrote about this a year ago). Its design is a magnetron generating microwaves, as well as a high-Q resonator - a metal "bucket", a trap for microwaves in the form of a sealed cone. The magnetron (in everyday life it is he who ensures the operation of microwave ovens) is connected to the resonator by a high-frequency transmission line, that is, an ordinary coaxial cable. Entering the resonator, the EM wave is emitted to the sides of both ends with the same phase velocity, but with different group velocity - this, according to the creator, is the reason for the effect.
What is the difference between these two speeds? Once in a confined space, electrons begin to propagate in it, reflected from the inner walls of the resonator. Phase velocity is the velocity relative to a reflective surface, which, in fact, determines the velocity of the electrons. Since electrons enter the chamber from the same source, this value is indeed the same for everyone. The group velocity, in turn, is the speed of electrons relative to the end wall and increases as it moves from the narrow to the wide part of the cone. Thus, according to Scheuer, the pressure of the EM wave on the wide wall of the resonator is greater than on the narrow one, which creates thrust.
Engine versus Newtonian physics
So why do scientists disagree with this? The main claim of physicists is that the principle of operation of the described construction directly contradicts Newton’s third law, which states that “action always has an equal and opposite reaction, otherwise, the interactions of two bodies against each other are equal and directed in opposite directions.” Simply put, in our usual space for every action there is a reaction equal in strength but opposite in direction. This principle explains the reason for the operation of all modern engines, from jet (gas is fed back, which moves the car forward) to ionic (a beam of charged atoms moves in one direction and the ship in the other). EmDrive simply has no emissions ... no.
Some lovers put together a miniature copy of EmDrive right at home.
In addition, several not so important parameters remain unaccounted for. For example, the author of the concept did not take into account the fact that the EM wave exerts pressure not only on the end walls, but also on the side walls of the resonator. After criticizing Schuyer, he published an unreviewed work explaining his point of view, but, according to experts, the theory of radiation pressure is more complicated than the theory he presented.
Technology on the edge of science fiction
In 2013, NASA became interested in the engine. No wonder: if EmDrive actually works as stated, then this will be a real revolution in the field of space travel. The device was tested in the Eagleworks laboratory at the Johnson Space Center. The work was carried out under the direction of Harold White, and in their course an anomalous result was obtained - a thrust of about 0.0001 N. White believes that such a resonator can work by creating a virtual plasma toroid that implements thrust using magnetohydrodynamics during quantum oscillations of vacuum. The test conditions were chosen sparing, 50 times less in power than the experiments of Scheuer himself. They passed on a torsion pendulum for small forces, which is capable of detecting tens of micronewtons, in a sealed stainless steel vacuum chamber at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure.
Today, CCTV-2 reported that Chinese engineers not only successfully tested the new engine in the Tiangong-2 space laboratory in December last year, but also presented materials demonstrating the layout and operation of EmDrive. In the near future, the installation will go into space and will be tested in real conditions. Li Feng, chief designer, explained that before launching on spacecraft technology will have to go through modernization. For example, in order to keep the device in orbit, thrust power from 100 mH to 1H is required, and the current design does not allow squeezing this power out of the engine. In addition, the placement of the engine in one or another part of the theoretical satellite will also affect its heating and traction.
NASA is confident that with a design thrust of 1.2 mN, the installation will be able to reach the edge of the solar system in just a few months. If the tests are successful, the colonization of Mars will cease to be a dream and become a reality that in the near future will allow humanity to master the planets and large asteroids closest to Earth.