Conceptual Engine to Propel Rockets Without Fuel Showcased by NASA


Washington: A group of engineers at NASA funded by DARPA, the R and D wing of the US Department of Defence are working on an engine rocket that works without fuel and is 99 per cent as fast as light. This is based on a theory from 2001.

Though the basic concept for a layman is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. In reality, no man-made object can even come close to the speed at which light travels.

That hasn’t stopped one NASA engineer from testing predictions about a conceptual engine called the EmDrive. The EmDrive is a hypothetical “helical” engine that defies all the commonly held notions of physics and generates forward thrust without the use of fuel.

In 2001, a British physicist named Roger Shawyer proposed that we can produce propulsion by injecting microwaves into a conical chamber. Shawyer suggested that the microwaves would, in theory, bounce exponentially off the chamber walls, creating enough propulsion to power a spacecraft without fuel.

As futuristic and unattainably utopian as it may sound, some researchers working on Shawyer’s theories, do claim to have generated thrust in EmDrive experiments. The amount was so low, though, that the detractors believe the thrust may have even been caused by outside influences. Seismic vibrations or the Earth’s magnetic field, would be one example.

There can be no denying the fact that in the last decade or so, with SpaceX and other private space exploration ventures going mainstream, we are witnessing the second space race. Only this time, it isn’t exactly a big battle of the egos of the USA and the USSR.

Several engineers and scientists have taken opposing viewpoints on the EmDrive in recent months. The most recent of these is NASA engineer David Burns, as New Scientist reports.

“The engine itself would be able to get to 99 per cent the speed of light if you had enough time and power,” Burns told New Scientist.

The EmDrive has been a pet project of DARPA, and it has had its challenges, because of which, it may lose its funding from the Department of Defence.

And yet, the “Impossible Engine” as EmDrive has been called again and again, continues to fascinate engineers and scientists. Why? Because a fuel-less thruster would be a boon to human exploration of the cosmos, near and far, thus changing the course of human knowledge and discourse.