Science says the EmDrive is a fake.
The EmDrive is a proposed engine space travel. The EmDrive is a RF resonant cavity thruster hypothesized to create thrust without any propellant. Traveling around and carrying all your fuel with you gets very expensive, and an propellant-less thruster would revolutionize space travel.
Unfortunately, the EmDrive’s explained operation violates certain conservation of momentum principles. Yet, initial tests of a working apparatus showed positive thrust of about 20 micronewtons: nothing significant, but enough to request future testing. Of course, any positive results have generated significant press and a cult-following.
But actual scientists and engineers are much more skeptical of any device which seems to break fundamental conservation principles. And NASA has been hesitant to waste its resources testing something it assumes is a hoax.
Fortunately, it looks like NASA won’t have to worry. A new paper presented at the Aeronautics and Astronautics Association of France’s Space Propulsion conference this week is sure to cause a bit of a stir. Researchers from the Dresden University of Technology in Germany have been investigating the EmDrive’s initial results. Their initial conclusions suggest that the force reported in previous EmDrive experiments may not be the result of some magical invisible force, but rather the interaction of cables and Earth’s magnetic field.
“Our results show that the magnetic interaction from not sufficiently shielded cables or thrusters are a major factor that needs to be taken into account,” the team wrote in their research.
Typically, researches looking for small results must be extremely careful to shield and minimize the affect of the testing apparatus. Calculating the forces between their cables and the Earth’s magnetic field, they surmised that the force they noticed – a few micro-Newtons – could be explained by interaction with the magnetic field.
“[T]he German researchers noted that when they changed the direction that the EmDrive was facing, the direction of the thrust changed, but the level of thrust did not,” Motherboard noted. Of course, that shouldn’t happen. The EmDrive should always produce thrust in the direction it’s pointed. “This clearly indicates that the ‘thrust’ is not coming from the EmDrive but from some electromagnetic interaction,” the researchers added.
Unfortunately for science fiction, the EmDrive appears to be debunked. Fortunately for science, the conservation of momentum is safe once again.