'IMPOSSIBLE' EM PROPULSION ENGINE CONFIRMED BY INDEPENDENT GERMAN SCIENTISTS
July 28, 2015 - German scientists have confirmed that an Electromagnetic Propulsion Engine, claimed by some to be 'impossible', actually works. The EM Drive breaks the conservation of momentum law of physics, which is why it was originally widely ridiculed by the scientific community. However after repeated testing, it appears that the engine is actually producing thrust.
Claims earlier in the year that it was creating a warp field have now been refuted. It is propelled forward by microwaves bouncing around inside a closed chamber. It will supposedly be able to get us to Mars in just 70 days, without using expensive rocket fuel.
Martin Tajmar, the German scientist who has been independently testing the EM Drive, has a history of debunking experimental propulsion systems. So far, the drive appears to work, even in a vacuum. More testing is required to examine exactly how it works, and whether it is viable for use. If it does end up being used, it could spark new space exploration missions to Pluto, where New Horizons recently found flowing ice.
Over the past year, there's been a whole lot of excitement about the electromagnetic propulsion drive, or EM Drive - a scientifically impossible engine that's defied pretty much everyone's expectations by continuing to stand up to experimental scrutiny. The drive is so exciting because it produces huge amounts of propulsion that could theoretically blast us to Mars in just 70 days, without the need for heavy and expensive rocket fuel.
Instead, it's apparently propelled forward by microwaves bouncing back and forth inside an enclosed chamber, and this is what makes the drive so powerful, and at the same time so controversial. As efficient as this type of propulsion may sound, it defies one of the fundamental concepts of physics - the conservation of momentum, which states that for something to be propelled forward, some kind of propellant needs to be pushed out in the opposite direction.
For that reason, the drive was widely laughed at and ignored when it was invented by English researcher Roger Shawyer in the early 2000s. But a few years later, a team of Chinese scientists decided to build their own version, and to everyone's surprise, it actually worked. Then an American inventor did the same, and convinced NASA's Eagleworks Laboratories, headed up by Harold 'Sonny' White, to test it.
The real excitement began when those Eagleworks researchers admitted back in March that, despite more than a year of trying to poke holes in the EM Drive, it just kept on working - even inside a vacuum. This debunked some of their most common theories about what might be causing the anomaly. Now Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at Dresden University of Technology in Germany, has played around with his own EM Drive, and has once again shown that it produces thrust - albeit for reasons he can't explain. Tajmar presented his results at the 2015 American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition in Florida on 27 July, and you can read his paper here. He has a long history of experimentally testing (and debunking) breakthrough propulsion systems, so his results are a pretty big deal for those looking for outside verification of the EM Drive.
To top it off, his system produced a similar amount of thrust as was originally predicted by Shawyer, which is several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket. "Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EM Drive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements [sic] methods used so far," Tajmar and graduate student Georg Fiedler write in their conference abstract. "Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena." So where does all of this leave us with the EM Drive? While it's fun to speculate about just how revolutionary it could be for humanity, what we really need now are results published in a peer-reviewed journal - which is something that Shawyer claims he is just a few months away from doing, as David Hambling reports for Wired.