New Space Drive Concept

Here is the article:

This is not a feature request, however it might be a good idea for the lore of how some of the space drives in the Infinity Universe operate.

According to the article, a capacitor can flucuate its mass based on the frequency it is vibrating at and the frequency that its electric current is fluctuating. If this capacitor is pushed forward when light and pulled back when heavy (at a very fast rate) then it can exert a force and propel itself.

This system would be able to generate thrust through using only solar radiation as fuel.

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After the Q-Thruster was proven this year, who would need this crude machinery?
According to Dr. Harold “Sonny” White of NASA, a significantly sized Q-Thruster could allow us to reach our nearest star in 29.9 years. I suppose that’s either Alpha Centauri AB or Barnard’s Star.
All we need now is Lockheed Martin Skunkworks’ compact fusion reactor to reach fruition and be proven beyond any doubt to work.

okay slow down there shigawire. This thread needs a healthy dose of skepticism.

For starters, the em drive is far from proven. All that has happened is that they measured a force. They don’t know what this force is or how it originated. Their experiment was not even conducted in a vacuum and conduction via the heat of the experiment seems the most likely source IMO. That being said, there were other sources of error and cause for skepticism involved as well…such as violation of conservation of momentum. I personally didn’t read much on the details, but only enough that the claim that it works 100% is bogus. If you want more of an explanation I feel like @kichae will have a better explanation.

Having just read the article on woodward, as the title of the article says “unproven science.” I’m not trying to step on any toes and kill dreams but I still remain skeptical. There’s a saying when trying to invent something new and you have a good idea. If it’s 100% and such a great idea, why hasn’t it been done before? This is one of the thoughts that comes to mind now. If it’s this easy and simple, why has no one at NASA in the last 50 years thought to experiment with it? Or, an even better question, why isn’t NASA all over this as they are with the EM drive when even that has glaring flaws in it’s data even when, according to this article, this has been tested hundreds of times and has reproduced the predictible data every time.

I would love for either drive to work because it would revolutionize our world. But, there is a reason we aren’t colonizing our solar system, even after we’ve been flying to its outer reaches for the last 40 years. It’s not easy, and the laws of physics aren’t easy to outsmart.

Now to play the real devil’s advocate. Well shigawire, all spacecraft need RCS systems to maneuver to dock and and hold attitude, why not have a EM drive for main propulsion and these new drives for attitude? Do you even know which one takes more energy or is more efficient per thrust? I haven’t seen any numbers for either drive. You should probably search for such things before making a claim that an incredible drive just as much unproven as the EM drive is crude machinery. I could think of many reasons for having 2 different types of reactionless drives; on the same, or different craft. There’s a reason we launch satellites with chemical rockets but use electrical propulsion for long distance missions.

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Of course, you are right to be skeptical. I gladly permit you to pop my idiot balloon. :smiley:

Maybe I read some online pop-science magazine that stated that the q-thruster had been proven several times already. Most recently in the UK somewhere.

But I do accept that you have read more about this than me, and I remain skeptical thanks to you.
Still, I hope.

I do not know which kind of thruster would do best for maneuvering. But it would make sense to me that the Q-Thruster would not be best suited for this, as its theoretical output is very low (yet nearly constant for long range travel).

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This is a pretty good summary about reactionless drives, and this one in particular:

Apart from the usual reasons to be sceptical (it violates known science, measurements weren’t clear nor in perfect conditions, it’s not the first time we heard of it and yet nothing has come up so far…), there is also a reason to be frightened if this abomination ever works : the Burnside Advice.

Basically, a reactionless drive, however weak it is, is an absolute, unstoppable weapon of mass-destruction. If we discover it today, you can be certain that there won’t be any planet left for humans to inhabit in a millennium. Why? Simple : accelerate it up to 99.999% of the speed of light. Then stop and come back. Then don’t decelerate as you are arriving. Bam, instant arbitrarily powerful RKV. The trip will take a few decades (or centuries for overkill), but when it come back, there won’t be anything anyone can do to stop it - and it will have enough kinetic energy to literally Death Star the impacted planet.

So we have every reason to think it doesn’t work. And you really, really want it that way.

Everything powerfull is in most cases also deadly.

I got to disagree with the second part of your response. The argument you brought up could be applied to any major technical advancement. Just because it steps into gigantic levels of energy and could affect more then just our world doesn’t mean that from there on it’s too dangerous to exist.
After all we want to influence those worlds. We want to step on them. And for that something mindbogglingly powerful needs to be found.

Not that I’m not sceptical on that “science” and triger happy journalism …

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The difference is that it’s not “gigantic” levels of energy, but “arbitrarily big”. That’s the difference between a vast organisation (like a country) developing a weapon capable of destroying an entire city and any random jerk with a car able to destroy the entire Sol system.
That’s the problem with such free energy machines, compared to reasonable technology like exawatt lasers or black-hole mass-energy conversion engines.

I want to talk about the thruster described in the OP. The linked article does a great job of explaining the principles and for the rest of of this response I’m going to assume you’ve read how it works. As I understand it the drive works by fluctuating the mass of a capacitor by rapidly charging and discharging it. Vibrate the capacitor to match the rate of mass fluctuation and you get thrust.

Now I may be missing something obvious here but I can’t see how this violates conservation of momentum. The mass is being moved in the form of electrical energy on and off the device, so the device is pushing against the source of that energy to create its thrust. As an analogy imagine that the source of additional mass is a tank of water and it is a bucket on a trolley being filled and emptied from the tank instead of a capacitor. Whilst the source of the water is off the trolley it will be able to generate thrust relative to the water tank. However, as soon as you put the power source into the system and make it self contained, as far as I can tell, all thrust will disappear.

I wonder if the researchers in the original article have tested the device running on battery power with the battery attached physically to the thruster?

As to whether this sort of thruster could power a space craft is still not clear. If my understanding is correct, you couldn’t power the thruster from a battery carried on the craft because the net thrust would be zero. You might be able to use solar power however.

That’s not a thing that happened. An experiment detected thrust coming from an EmDrive, yes, but the experiment detected the thrust both when the drive was set to produce thrust, and when it was set not to. That’s the equivalent of a null result.

Worse, the actual thrust measured is on the same order of magnitude as the thrust that would be generated simply by using the electromagnetic radiation used to power the device as a propellant. Again, that screams “null result”. This is the physics equivalent of “results indistinguishable from placebo”.

Moreover, Sonny was on the team that did this test, and I’m starting to suspect that he’s generally less skeptical of his experimental results than he should be. We all love finding positive results, but spinning null results to sound like positive results is poor form. This is coming from the guy who got a ton of press attention for having an artist draw a fictional space ship for him. The man’s so much hype, someone needs to buy him a TFS Vegeta T-shirt for Christmas.

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[quote=“Crayfish, post:8, topic:565”]
Now I may be missing something obvious here but I can’t see how this violates conservation of momentum. The mass is being moved in the form of electrical energy on and off the device, so the device is pushing against the source of that energy to create its thrust.[/quote]

The change of mass is not due to electrons being loaded up, but due to the changing the energy of the device while it’s being accelerated. The “transient mass fluctuation” is greater than the mass of the electrons dumped into or taken out of the capacitor. As a matter of fact, the effect scales roughly at the square of the power. Double the power and you quadruple the mass fluctuation. (The actual factor is P-P²)

[quote=“Crayfish, post:8, topic:565”]
I wonder if the researchers in the original article have tested the device running on battery power with the battery attached physically to the thruster?[/quote]

I would think that it should work just fine, but the efficiency would drop off a cliff because of the increased mass without a corresponding increase in power. If the capacitor is mass C and can discharge power P, adding the battery would increase the system mass to C+B while still only discharging power P. The ideal seems to be a massy device that can very quickly accumulate and release a colossal amount of power.

If anyone spots any problems with the above, I welcome clarification. The available articles are not particularly clear, and I haven’t taken a chance on reading Woodward’s papers.

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Surprisingly, for what I’ve read he actually didn’t want the headlines hype and would have preferred to be left alone by the media. It’s still poor form to spin a null result as a positive, even if he seems to cost very little to the American taxpayer compared to other projects.

Note that, bar open systems like sails (who use external sources like a photon sail), the only true reactionless drive is the photon drive : you points a big floodlight in one direction, you’re pushed in the other. But the blasted thing needs 300 MW for 1N of thrust - the fact that it’s the same number as the speed of light in m/s is not random chance.
If you have a black hole mass-energy converter, that’s probably what you would use, and that would be the best closed system (where you use your own fuel instead of external sources) you could ever conceive according to known science. But with today’s technology, it’s pretty useless.
Also, a photon drive powerful enough to be interesting as a propulsion system would give a whole new meaning to “death ray”.

No, the factor is dP/dt - P², for reasons I’m really not sure of, as I haven’t found a proper derivation. The equation itself suggests it comes from GR, which makes sense as relativity theory makes no distinction between mass density and energy density, and takes no issue with the idea of energy having momentum.

But that’s exactly the problem. If the added mass of the capacitor is due to the increased energy density when it’s charged, that is not magic mass. That is mass that has been transferred to the capacitor by way of moving energy. The capacitor then gets lighter due to the energy having been transferred away again. If the source of that energy is also on board the spacecraft, that energy’s source will also gain and lose mass as it transfers energy away and back to itself, and the source will also need to be accelerated.

Just like the other drives, this is only a free lunch if we ignore the fact that you need to have the food on board already.

Indeed, it’s simple math, but it does need to be pointed out that the 300 MW/N ratio assumes 100% efficiency. The actual energy cost would end up being higher. Probably significantly higher!


I see. So the device wouldn’t work because the thrust generated with the system would produce equal and opposite thrust in the opposite direction.

I guess you can think of it that way, especially if you imagine the source of the capacitor’s energy is an identical capacitor. The real issue at play here is that if the spacecraft consists of the capacitor and the energy source, the mass of the space craft as a whole doesn’t decrease. This becomes trying to move a cargo ship by rearranging the cargo containers on board.

Oh this is a necro, I know, but I really love the “changing mass” idea (to the point of researching pocket satellite costs) and I have some questions for you @Kichae. What I’m about to suggest, probably has flaws and I would rather that solution be presented than just the flaws and why they are flaws, although knowing what is wrong with it would be good.

So I’m imagining something like this, in it’s simplest form a rod with two capacitors on each end, in the middle of the rod a motor that spins the rod clockwise and at the “front”/“east” end of the “spacecraft” a magnet orientated with the negative end toward the rod.

System of operation is as follows, the motor spins the rod, at the “north” pole the “north” capacitor get’s charged, once that capacitor reaches the “forward” magnet, it is discharged into the vacuum by a short circuit.

Theory of motion being that while the capacitor is being charged in the north position the force is directed south, while the capacitor is charged the force is directed toward angular motion from the center motor around the capacitor (as the capacitor has a bit more mass and is acting as a pivot point), at discharge, the electrons should travel away from the magnet applying forward force.

Does this sound correct?

Hmm. Ok I think I got how it worked. A simple sketch would be useful next time.

What you are doing here as it seems is transport electrons from a “lower magnetic potential” (don’t know the real phrase for that) to a “higher magnetic potential”. Timing the “release” of those electrons might increase efficiency as the force vector is then in line with the direction you want to go. Although I don’t think it’s really needed, rotation of the whole device may be sufficient.

Also I don’t see why you need to “discharge” and “charge” the capacitors? It looks like they flow from one capacitor to the other and in a theoretical device wouldn’t escape to anywhere. Especially as whatever you use as a conductor has free electrons naturally.

Lets say the neutral position of the rod is orthogonal to the stationary magnet. The free electrons in the conductor stay where they are. You turn the rod. Electrons start to move and accumulate on the “faar” capacitor. You turn the rod. It does it the other way around.
Add a switch (as you did), to trap the electrons in the far capacitor, when you bring the “full” capacitor to the front again there will be more electrons to push back then in the “start rotation”. It also makes movements more “sharp” Although it will happen in the rod anyway, but most of the capacitance is inside the capacitors, so that isn’t a problem.

What I’m not sure about yet is if there would really be Voltage between the two capacitors in the “inline” situation. Usually voltage is created by continual changing magnetic fields or movement trough such fields, although in a small enough time frame you may be able to use that voltage before it discharges. Probably does work.

O wait:

Electrons start to move and accumulate on the “faar” capacitor.

In turn depriving the capacitor near the magnet of electrons. This creates a voltage contradicting the force you created, forcing the electrons back to the “front”. Deepening how big the two forces are and considering that the Voltage will rise in an e-function, there will be a point of equilibrium. So in itself not really a deal breaker, but something you need to factor in

The whole charging discharging isn’t really needed. It happens in the rod anyway due to the Voltage described above.

Concerning your request for solutions:
I don’t see a way around the counter force created by the deprivation of the conductor as it is applied instantly. You could scale up the magnet, thus pushing the point of equilibrium further “down”, moving the electrons further, getting more momentum out of the system.

O wait … again:
Did you factor in the force created by the unequal weighed rod? After all. You move those electrons back up. I don’t think it really matter if it happens by magnetic applied force/voltage or by physically moving the capacitor.

I don’t want to discredit your idea. But the problems I see are very much like the things in perpetuum mobiles:

Where gravity is the magnetic field.

I know you use a motor to push energy in. But as I see it, all the energy is transformed to heat when the electrons travel the rod.

Ok. Let’s try to comprehend where the energy goes. We have a motor that has power and provides energy as needed.

-          1
-          |
-          |
-          o         M (Magnet)
-          |
-          |
-          2
  1. The rod is in its neutral position (orthogonal to the pole of the magnet). Capacitor 1 and 2 are electrically connected.
  2. The motor rotates the rod clockwise.
  3. Electrons are forced into capacitor 2. A voltage across capacitor 1 and 2 emerges. Energy was needed to move the electrons out of their Natural Equilibrium. Let’s call that Energy-A1
  4. Capacitor 1 reaches the magnet. Capacitor 1 and 2 is electrically disconnected.
  5. The motor now moves capacitor 2 towards the magnet. It has to push the electrons into the Magnetic field. This requires energy: Energy-B1
  6. Capacitor 2 reaches the magnet. Capacitors are connected. Energy-A1 and Energy-B1 are released.
  7. The electrons and the ship is being accelerated and rush away from each other. The Energy in their movement is called Energy-C1
  8. The deprivation of electrons in Capacitor 2 and abundance in Capacitor 1 create an electric field (Voltage). (correct me if I talk mumbo jumbo)
  9. The electric field overcomes the magnetic field and decelerates the electrons and the ship.

As you may be able to see. Energy-A never leaves the system. Due to losses it may be needed to “fill it up again” but in essence it stays and feeds back into itself. It’s “blind” useless Energy movement.

What’s interesting is Energy-B. It looks like it may be possible to build up that energy.
You may be able to keep the kinetic energy transferred of the ship if you stop the electrons from being affected by the electric field in the right time. Disconnecting the connection between C1 and C2 before Energy-B is completely converted into “Voltage” (chrarge? what’s the potential energy of the electric field again?).

But I think in the end the Kinetic energy of both, the ship and the electrons are transferred back into something else. Because the electrons will run into the capacitor … and the capacitor won’t budge, electric field will build up and stop them and thus the ship.

Just my steps trying to comprehend your idea. Make of it what you want. Also sorry for not using the most correct therms. I know most of the principles but don’t get the wording right most of the time.

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You must have misunderstood me @Lomsor, I’m thinking about this in basically purely mechanical logic, replace the capacitor with a ball that disappears instead of the charge and you should get what I’m saying. Also I suppose I failed to mention that the capacitor is charged with solar panels or batteries, so there is a constant input into the system, it’s not perpetual motion.

Just discharging a capacitor that is fed by solar power in front of a magnet should in principle produce a very inefficient Ion Drive.

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You made a verry technical proposal. So I assumed you asked for a practical view on the proposal.

I think you don’t quite get how capacitors and solar panels work. I’m not 100% certain, but I don’t think solar panels “generate” electrons. Nether is there a body in space where you could suck them out of the floor.

You can throw electrons out into space. But you would need to get them first.

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For the sake of argument with you, remove the magnet and there should still be a forward movement… (You are shifting, adding and removing the mass of the “spaceship”.)

And I’m sure as hell that when you short-circuit a capacitor some of that discharge if not most will be electrons, right? (Actually, it has to be most, by definition of electric charge.)

Well there’s your problem.

As Lomsor pointed out, solar panels do not create electrons. They add energy to them, which does change their mass, but it doesn’t make more of them, and with only ~0.05% of the mass of anything being made of electrons (a lot less in isotopes that include neutrons) you wont be getting a lot of delta-v out of your engine by removing your finite supply of electrons from your spacecraft (though on the bright side you might get really nice specific impulse).

Unless you’re planning to use solar power to generate electron/positron pairs, which isn’t entirely impossible, but probably less efficient than just shining a flashlight towards the thing you want to fly away from.