The EM Drive, What Can It Really Do?

The EM Drive is a hypothetical form of propulsion that uses microwaves that are enclosed in a chamber and should create forward thrust. 
The EM Drive is a hypothetical form of propulsion that uses microwaves that are enclosed in a chamber and should create forward thrust. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Here we go again, with the media going too far with the whole EM Drive (Electro Magnetic Drive). It has the potential to be an exciting prospect, but it cannot do half the things the media are saying. For starters, it is yet to be confirmed that it actually works, it will not get people to Mars within 10 weeks, and it certainly does not break any laws of physics.

For those of you who do not know what the EM Drive is, it is a hypothetical form of propulsion that uses microwaves enclosed in a chamber and should create forward thrust.

It was first proposed at the turn of the century. All the media attention started earlier this year when it was claimed that it could lead to a breakthrough in space travel (propellant-less space travel).

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It was even said in the media that it would lead to “warp travel,” prompting NASA to come out and say that they were not working on a warp drive.

Why all the fanfare, you might ask?

Well, the EM Drive does produce a very small amount of thrust, but it is not understood why.

Now, new research that was presented at the Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition held by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics this week and scientists from the University of Dresden in Germany, have explained their latest findings on the EM drive. They have not confirmed that it actually works, but what they did do was rule out some factors that could be at play.

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Katie Palmer from Wired wrote: “To be fair, these researchers constructed their version of the device so they could try to eliminate potential sources of error or interference, and they don’t say that they’ve validated the drive—just that they can’t explain where their teeny tiny thrust signatures are coming from.”

According to IFL Science, one of the outlandish claims for the EM Drive is that it provides propellant-less propulsion, but again, this has never been proven. As the researchers explained in their paper: “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, nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena.”

So the EM Drive remains as it did, a form of propulsion with a very small thrust that no one can explain. But I’m sure this will not stop people in the media from telling us it is going to transform space travel.

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