If the concept of EmDrive works, it would have redefined not only our view of space travel, but of physics as a whole. Except that the latest research shows that it really is impossible to drive anything with an “impossible drive”.
The engine, invented by Rogerg Shawyer, got its name from the fact that everyone initially thought it was impossible to work, because it completely contradicted the law of conservation of energy. According to the EmDrive website, the engine works without fuel, using only microwave beams that bounce back and forth in a sealed chamber to create thrust. The question that first came to everyone’s mind was where the energy would come from if there was no fuel, but despite the fact that on paper it seemed impossible for the EmDrive to work, Chinese researchers and NASA have started to actively work on the device.
The surprise came when, after Chinese experts, NASA researchers concluded that EmDrive could indeed generate some thrust, and the US space agency later confirmed that the technology could work in space. EmDrive could not be expected to be used to propel rockets in the near future, but it could be used to position smaller space assets such as cubesat satellites. What was even more promising was that such a perpetual motion drive would have made it possible to take an unmanned spacecraft very far, even to other star systems.
However, the latest research shows that this will not be the case, as researchers from the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden) presented three studies at the Space Propulsion conference that refute the EmDrive’s viability. According to an article in Popular Mechanics, the researchers created a brand new measurement tool to find out, which revealed that the minimum thrust measured by Chinese researchers and NASA engineers was just a measurement error. According to the researchers, the error was caused by the fact that when energy flows into the EmDrive, the engine heats up, which in turn slightly deforms the fasteners of the measuring device.
Martin Tajmar, a participant in the research, told the German scientific journal Grenzwissenschaft Aktuell that some good things came out of the experiment. “Unfortunately, we could not prove anything of the concept of the engine, but as a result of the research we have significantly improved our measurement technology,” he said, adding that in this light they will of course continue their research in this area to see if they can discover something new with a more accurate instrument.
Source: Popular Mechanics