The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) recently published the latest patent application from inventor, scientist, and electrical engineer, Roger Shawyer. Shawyer, who has had four patents granted by the IPO, is currently pursuing a 5th for his groundbreaking EmDrive.
Shawyer came up with the concept of the EmDrive back in 1999. The concept for the new method of rocket propulsion uses a science called, reaction mass. The EmDrive technology does not require any kind of propellant, and relies on microwave photons, converted from electricity. The microwave photons are fired into a “truncated cone-shaped closed metal cavity.” When fired, the photons enter the cavity and proceed to push the larger end of the cone backward, propelling and accelerating the smaller end forward.Albeit the concept above seems simple enough, the actual technology behind the next generation super conductor thruster is extremely complex. The thruster relies on a single flat super conductor plate on one end, and a specially shaped, non-superconducting plate on the other. Currently, in order to produce a non-superconducting end plate, it has to be mounted to a sapphire substrate. In Layman’s terms, the methods in producing a non-superconducting end plate are expensive. If granted and produced, the EmDrive thruster method and system could make the process of manufacturing a viable superconducting thruster more efficient in performance and cost. Although there is some controversy in the scientific community about whether or not the system actually works as it is said to.
The Emdrive propulsion system not only has the potential to have an effect on the technologies behind space travel, but also has energy and climate implications should this method and system be implemented. Less propellant used to propel our spacecraft would result in less fuel burned, and less negative environmental effects from the burned fuels. It is hard to say whether this technology will be better for space and space travel. In this instance, the phrase, “It’s not rocket science” does not apply.