Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels? – fundamentals – 08 September 2006 – New Scientist Tech
I read this last week and was intrigued, though puzzled. New Scientist seems to have made this available for a short period of time, so go for it. Have a look.
The basic idea is that a specially shaped microwave resonance chamber, in this case, a truncated cone, when injected with microwaves, produces more force out one end than the other, providing a small bit of thrust. It’s enough, the inventor says, to keep a satellite in its proper orbit. It’s not nearly enough, as of yet, to lift a car. It’s certainly not any sort of perpetual motion machine, because the energy input is high. The point is really that it converts electricity to thurst with no moving parts and theoretically no loss of mass, so it has a much longer life than, say, an ion engine or conventional chemical thruster.
If you look at purely newtonian dynamics, it shouldn’t work. No matter what shape the chamber, all of the internal forces should cancel out. Unless, that is, the microwaves leak out one side more than the other. And if this whole technology is a dead end, that’s my guess for what’s wrong with it. Reflections along the length of the cylinder may be better contained (like light in fiber optics). But more energy may be leaking from the fat end of the conic section and so the measured thrust would, in that case, come from the heating of the air nearby, kind of like that old toy that spins when you shine a light on it. And this has to work in a vacuum.
But what do I know? I’m not a phycisist. The claim is that there’s a relativistic effect, though it’s not clear to me why that would be biased towards the fat end. That’s the part I don’t understand. If anyone does, feel free to chime in with an explanation even someone like me could understand.
Either way, “the end of wings and wheels” is a bit premature. But longer-lasting satellites might be in the cards.