What is the EMDrive, and how does it work?

What is it, and what is all the fuss about?

The Electromagnetic Drive, or EMDrive for short, is a total game changer and the gateway to the future. Yes, really!

Lots of people are getting excited about the fact that NASA scientists recently fired some lasers into it, and ‘potentially’ discovered that some of the beams of light coming out of it were travelling faster than light itself- theoretically showing the presence of a ‘warp bubble’- which would be the greatest discovery, since ever. This would mean that a warp drive would be attainable within our generation and would allow interstellar travel- opening the gateway to other habitable planets.

Let’s hope it is true!

However, for now, coming back down to earth; I did say ‘potentially’ as this was observed once and until it can be repeated time and time again (also in a vacuum) then it could be not quite as exciting.

The actual application of the EMDrive is very exciting too – albeit not as exciting as a warp drive- but it would bring about some amazing benefits.

Cheap Travel into Space

This would transform the space industry. At the moment, a conventional Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) Satellite weighs about 3 tonnes on the launchpad. A whopping 1.7 tonnes of that is the weight of the fuel used to get it into space in the first place!

This would reduce the weight of that GEO satellite to about 1.3 tonnes because the EMDrive can propel it, using no fuel or propellant, into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and then it can keep it there whilst it slingshots around the earth, building up speed, so that it can launch into Geostationary Earth Orbit. This process is known as an ‘Edelbaum Transfer’ and would take about 36 days to complete- but who cares, you’ve just saved money on 1.7 tonnes worth of solid fuel and you haven’t polluted the environment!

This would save the space industry approximately £15,000,000,000 (billion) in satellite launches over the next 10 years.

Because it would reduce the cost so much, and would make it a lot easier to get into space, we could then deploy things like a ‘Sun Shade Satellite’ (basically sunglasses but for Earth) which would cool the earth and reverse global warming.

Also, then, things like Solar Panels in space then becomes a reality too. Applications are endless.

Revolution in Air Travel- Who needs Wings?

The EmDrive (second generation, when they have ironed out the creases) could be part of a Hybrid system.

Consider if a new type of aircraft was made with these engines, and with a jet engine as well, sporting no wings and of a compact car like design. You could use the EmDrive to get you up to altitude using VTOL (Vertical Take Off & Landing) and then the jet engines kicks in, and takes you up to about 2000 MPH (Yes, two thousand)  whilst not exceeding 1G of course (you feel more in a standard family saloon when accelerating on a slip-road) and then gently slows down after half an hour, gradually descending until the EMDrive kicks back in and then allow for a smooth, vertical landing. Then you realise that you’ve travelled from London to Sydney in 2 hours 40 minutes- and landed in a car parking space.

Also, did I mention that the jets would run on liquid hydrogen, which is sustainable and green? Also that wings are optional at this point?


Yes. London to Sydney in under 3 hours. No need for big airports. Oh, and the EMDrive is completely silent too.

How does it work?

In very short the EMDrive uses Electromagnetic waves generated by a magnetron (found in any microwave oven) to propagate through what seems to be a closed system where the two parallel sides are tapered, therefore creating a force difference at each end inside the cavity, one force stronger than the other in order to generate thrust. (Much like a tug-of-war, but pushing rather than pulling, where one side is stronger than the other- the system eventually begins to move).

EMdrive could enable travel from the surface of Earth to the surface of the moon within four hours. At the moment, it takes 3 days.


3 Main Factors- Shape, Size and Quality

The shape, size and Quality factor of the material of the engine is where the magic happens. The waves are ‘guided’ down the taper, creating a higher wave velocity at one end – which directly translates into a higher force at that end.

The size is carefully matched to the wavelength on the EM waves thus allowing a cavity chamber where the waves can resonate efficiently, therefore storing large amounts of energy in the material.

The Quality Factor, or ‘Q’, of the material is worked out by dividing the Stored Energy / Energy Loss Per Cycle. This is dependent on the resistance of the material, which is why the prototypes are made out of copper – conducts very well at room temperature. Second generation EmDrives will be ‘supercooled’ with liquid hydrogen, therefore reducing the resistance to nearly zero and increasing the Q factor significantly. More Q = greater force difference = more thrust.

At it’s most efficient it can generate 1 tonne of thrust per 1 kilowatt of microwave energy.

Now, you cannot compare this to the Venturi effect or anything mechanical because it is is not mechanical, and it is non-linear. Lots of physicists and very clever people with letters after their name said this was impossible (like the trolling picture blow) as it apparently violated newton’s second law.

In fact, it doesn’t violate any laws of physics because the forces are produced by the stored energy in the material, the more ‘thrust’ that is produced means the more Q will go down thus agreeing with the conservation of energy law. The Q is then replenished allowing constant thrust to be produced.

 But, what about the warp drive?

Okay, yes, the warp drive is probably the thing that everyone wants to talk about.

The big thing about the EMDrive is the fact that NASA scientists fired another type of Electromagnetic radiation (or lasers, a.k.a light) into the same resonance chamber, and then the light coming out of the drive showed up as travelling faster than light.

Get your head around that for a second. The resultant light shines out of the device a fraction of a second before you shine it in. Mind Blown.

Impossible, right? Wrong. Technically wrong anyway. Until now, the whole idea of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel has been science fiction but widely agreed upon as theoretically possible one day, and hypothesised to be made possible by warping space in order not to violate Einstein’s theory of relativity where ‘c’ or the speed of light is the universe’s maximum speed limit. Energy = Mass x Speed of Light (squared).

Warp refers to ‘warping’ space and time which is an everyday occurrence in space, particularly around black holes as the masses are so insane that it affects space, time and light.

If we could harness the ability to warp space and time, then we have the ability to travel superluminal (FTL) meaning that we can travel light years in seconds. Humanity would be able to explore space and not be bound by our cosmically insignificant lifespans.

This would be done by expanding the fabric of space-time behind a spaceship and then compressing it in front, and then the spaceship would be forced through a warp-bubble as ridiculous speeds. Alpha-Centuri for the weekend anyone?

There is  a  lot  of work to be done still. With the new understanding of the relationship between resonance of materials and wavelengths will mean more testing and more experiments to harness the principle of the EMDrive and mould it into a warp drive.

Read this article for more information: http://blog-off.co.uk/blog/nasa-warp-drive-made-discovery/


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