In a small lab in Plymouth, a new quantum thruster is taking shape. I have been theorising about getting thrust from quantised inertia and trying to work out how best to do it for DARPA (see ref 1). With Prof Perez-Diaz we managed to get a few microNewtons out, and I had considered asymmetric plates, but engineer Frank Becker read my papers, remembered a capacitor-based Biefeld-Brown-type experiment he had done, and with a few discussion with me, he and Ankur Bhatt tried it and produced milliNewtons of thrust (see ref 2). This test made my year. Even DARPA emailed me saying something like "What the heck is this!?". One problem was that they had used a high voltage with a digital balance so there was a potential for glitches. Then Richard Mansell of IVO Ltd tried it with an analogue method and agreed with them. This new Mansell group has also blazed the path in innovation as well.
In its simplest form, anyone, with a little care for safety, can try this experiment. If you have a humble desk and a power socket then the cost is £800. I know because I've just spent that much on it! Not bad for a technology that promises to revolutionise just about every industry we have: satellites, rockets, cars, energy...etc. The trick is to ensure no artefacts, and that we hope to do at Plymouth.
The method is to setup a potential difference of 5kV between the plates of a capacitor, and separate them by about 10 micron with a dielectric. You then allow electrons to quantum tunnel across the gap at a very low current (1 microAmp) but at a massive acceleration. The theory of quantised inertia says that they will see a field of nice hot Unruh radiation everywhere, except between the capacitor plates, as for the old Casimir effect. There will be then a quantum void between the plates that will pull the electrons out of the cathode faster than expected and this will add momentum to the system which will thrust towards the anode. A thrust from 'nothing'. As you can see in the theory paper below (ref 3), QI predicts the results of Becker and Bhatt and Mansell exactly, even the changes as you vary the plate separation.
I'm glad that my openness about QI theory and its possible applications, partly in this blog, encouraged talented engineers to contribute because in my opinion they have shaved years off the path to QI application. This includes the above-mentioned folk, but also many on twitter and many who made comments here. My question is, what is my role now? Of course, I will continue to develop the QI theory, and I have two novels describing it written, and a second text book in the works, but my DARPA funding ends at the end of 2022. I hope to give DARPA a quantum thrust of 10 mN by then. What then?
What I'd like to do is to maintain freedom to continue to develop QI, to write about it, to not starve (!) and not have to be too distracted with business! One possibility would be to setup a Horizon Institute (HÎ)? Perhaps more like a Federation of Labs. The idea would be to use crowd funding or Venture Capital funding to provide support to labs developing QI thrusters, space & interstellar tests and new energy sources based on it, provide advice based on QI, and also a testing facility. In the present era it might be best outside academia? There are already two university labs (In California and Texas) crying out at me for money to start their experiments. As usual, I can see the horizon but not the detailed path to get there! Please make comments below - you might get us to Proxima Centauri quicker!
McCulloch, M.E., 2018. Propellant-less propulsion from quantised inertia. J Space Explo, Volume: 7(3). https://www.tsijournals.com/articles/propellantless-propulsion-from-quantized-inertia-13923.html
Becker, F. and A., Bhatt, 2018. Electrostatic accelerated electrons within symmetric capacitors during field emission condition events exert bidirectional propellant-less thrust. https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.04368
McCulloch, M.E., 2020. Thrust from symmetric capacitors using quantised inertia. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353481953_Thrust_from_Symmetric_Capacitors_using_Quantised_Inertia (Submitted to JPC).
An independent Institute sounds like a good idea. Take away the outside pressure and let you and the other researches focus on results.
I would think primarily crowd funding with an eye toward getting some big players like Elon Musk involved.
One key would be how to keep the core research open and free.
At some point there will be groups shooting off on their own development paths due to the huge advantage this technology will provide.
Mike, might there be some application of resonance theory which could enhance the thrust? A pure sinewave modulation of the voltage might set up an oscillation in the plate separation which might be tuneable to seek out the optimum configuration for boosting the output.
Mike, is there any reason to believe that you couldn't stack multiple layers of capacitor to increase the thrust? If you alternate thick and thin sections of insulation the right way, you could tunnel a lot more electrons, in the same direction (they wouldn't tunnel through the thicker insulation).
KCSteve: Yes. My intuition is to keep it open access. This has worked: I thrive with a feeling of freedom, and it enabled talented people to help me. I have to be a little careful now as other groups want their work kept quiet, but I'll keep it as open as I possibly can.
Rog: Some work by T. Musha (Musha, JBIS, 2008) indeed found that an AC signal boosted the thrust 4-fold.
MikeW: You are right. QI predicts it can be stacked, but the elements must be kept apart. If the Rindler horizon is 2 cm away, they have to be spaced more than that.
Seems like the most efficient path to both verify and demonstrate that you're seeing a real effect free of artifacts or errors would be to build a cubesat, and steer it in orbit. Milinewtons should be enough to make that trackable above noise and influence from the upper atmosphere, solar pressure, etc.
That's the primary application anyway, since propellantless thrust is still probably only worthwhile in space, given that the thrust still seems energy -inefficient. Orbital maintenance and especially despinning gyroscopes seems like a great initial target.
Mike, right, AC is the way to go then. For one thing, fission powered linear alternator Stirling engines are already developed and longterm tested for spacecraft powergen use.
The linear alternator free-piton Stirling engine arrangement looks like this:
Considering that the experiments aren't CERN level of investment, can't see how a independent institute wouldn't work. Looks like a technology that needs lots of polishing, the first computers that were made are a joke to us now in how limited, big and slow, maybe those small amounts of thrust will be a funny thing once in a future we are going interstellar with a engine powered by something that doesn't involve weening fast exaust gases backwards in order to gain speed forward.
Hope that you get the above noise indiscutible thrust results, to prove yourself right before darpa ends the funding.
Mike - though the capacitor-type thrusters look like they'll succeed, a while back you also suggested the possibility of not needing power at all to produce thrust. That involved conical voids of less than a micron dimension in a conductor, and at the time we discussed ways of making them. This sort of void could be fabricated in a chip fab and could be a good use of the DARPA funds while you have them. Not the sort of thing that a home experimenter could fabricate, but fairly simple for a fab with electron-beam etching.
AFAIK cubesats (around 1cm cube) cost in the region of around £5-10k to launch, and a test in space is really needed to eliminate the unknown systematic errors involved in Earth-based thrust testing. We really can't tell if there are reactions against the vacuum-chamber walls or the magnetic field of the Earth until we get far enough away from the Earth. Not sure who you ask to get them launched, though there are a fair number of satellite businesses in Reading.
Mike - just noticed the typo - 10cm cube, not 1cm....
@simon, where are you seeing those prices? this article (feb 2021) shows ~#30k/kg as being the average price (with spaceX offering a 200Kg satellite for 'only' $1m, increasing at $5k/kg beyond that)
https://aviationweek.com/aerospace/commercial-space/opinion-will-spacex-spur-another-wave-smallsat-innovation talking about https://www.spacex.com/rideshare/
I think there are some companies buying the $1m launch slots and then reselling cubesat slots on them at lower costs.
but in any case, it may be within crowdfunding range
Unknown - see https://newatlas.com/tubesat-personal-satellite/22211/ where the cost is stated as US$8000 for a "tubesat" that is pretty equivalent. Launch to LEO (a decaying orbit) giving around a couple of weeks for it to thrust its way out of that. Nice thing here is that the comms is already sorted in the kit, downside is that you only have around 250g for your device.
There's also the option of asking NASA nicely.... They are interested in anything that might have a chance of working, though they don't publicise that these days because some of the stuff they tried was too tinfoil-hat and they got a bit caned.
Went a bit further and found https://www.interorbital.com/Tubesat%20Kits.php which says the academic price is $8k for the tubesat without launch, $16k with launch, so the original article speaks with forked tongue.... Though looks like you can buy just the launch if you have built your satellite to their dimensions and mass.
Cost of launch+tubesat comes to around £12K, launch alone probably around £6k. Cubesats (academic price) comes to about £16k and £8k respectively. Commercial rates double the above. I presume Mike could wangle the academic price, though.
Solar power available in the tubesat will be around 1.5W, since around 3W installed and only half of them will be in the sunlight. Cubesats will have around 2.7W (again twice that installed). For both, we'd need to know how much power the electronics takes and thus how much is left over for the drive.
Obviously there's a need to find out a lot more about the drag factor experienced in the orbit, and thus the minimum thrust needed to keep the satellite up or to get it higher, and how to accurately locate the satellite so we can prove the drive works, but the cost of getting it up there isn't too bad.
Simon: I published the nanovoid 'floating bricks' here http://www.ptep-online.com/2020/PP-60-02.PDF. I did get a quote at the time from a European fabricator. They could make something for £20k. I can't use DARPA funds for that tho'.
Brian/Simon/Unknown: £16k looks affordable by crowdfunding. When I can see the thrust in my own lab this will be the next practical stage, probably in collaboration with others..
Mike: seems to be tremendous progress. Well done. Bill (William E. Smith)
PS I recommend you consider a classification system. I could easily see hundreds of posts here by the middle of 2022. Does your BLOG tool allow classification of comments.
For example I'd like to see a thread for each functional area - ie which addresses financing, engineering, manufacturing, R&D etc
PPS would it be asking too much for a monthly or even bi-weekly progress post by you.
Why does the capacitor thruster require such low amperage, would more damage the dialectric? Would a vacuum instead of dialectric increase the amount of power you could put into it?
Mike - seems a bit odd that you can't use the DARPA funds for the "floating bricks" tests. So far, though, I haven't figured out a way we could make something on this scale without needing a fab. The value of a working sample is astronomical - it would solve the energy problem for a start as well as having many other uses. Even a small chance of it actually working would make it a good bet. Of course, it would violate some well-established Laws of Physics, so most people would dismiss it off-hand.
Bill Smith - one thing I've found very surprising is how few people actually comment on Mike's blog. Obviously there are a few groups of experimenters who are working on Mike's ideas, though, but not really that many considering the number of anomalies it explains and the successes so far in the experimental results matching theory. There is however a problem in that the people making a good living based on older theories being absolutely true won't feel inclined to consider an alternative explanation. I'd figure that Mike can't spend all his time on this subject, since he's paid to do other things (and still needs to eat).
Schmeeh - a vacuum could be better, but there's a problem in making a large-area vacuum-gap in the micron and sub-micron range. there's a problem also with outgassing of the surfaces thus getting a good vacuum and when you get the gases and volatiles out there will still remain evaporated metal in the gaps. As such, using a dielectric gets us a result cheaply.
One thing we still don't really know is the extent to which materials damp Unruh waves (or whatever the waves actually are). Is it the conductivity, the Fermi velocity of the electrons, the mass, or *something else* that determines the blocking/damping of those waves? We might be able to determine that using Becker and Bhatt's setup. That might help in getting a larger effect. See http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Tables/fermi.html . Does Aluminium (Fermi velocity 2.03e+6m/s) shield better than Lithium (1.29e+6ms)? Is it electron density instead (next table down) or a combination? Thus Be with high electron density and high velocity might perform even better (though Be is not a healthy material to use). Would Barium be a good idea for the capacitor plates with a low electron density and Fermi velocity, so you can use multiple layers without them shielding each other?
The first step of getting something that works is basically done. Improving on that will likely take a lot of legwork.
Still following with interest. Thanks for your work! :)
I think your figure 2 should use a log scale for the y axis.
Thank you for your interesting blog. As I understood the far horizon is actually end of Universe. That is why the older galaxies (just after Big Bang) should have a little different rotation curves. Soon James Webb space telescope will be able to see further into space and may bring the information necessary to confirm your theory. But I personally sure that James Webb will found older galaxies as devoid of hydrogen as Milky Way and thus the whole idea of Big Bang will fail. New physics is difficult to predict and I saw your excellent presentation about wrong way of hypothesis for dark matter. From my perspective the same logic is applicable to Big Bang and quantum entanglement. My personal critique is here:
However, the development in physics is very unpredictable and your idea may be valid after all. Just the Unruh waves are not pushing from the edge of Universe, more like from quantum vacuum itself (in sea analogy, they are created by some remnant energy of quantum vacuum (like the heat of atmosphere or sea for sea waves). But from the center of galaxy they should be different because of the presence of the other stars (pretty much like the swamp of other boats will obviously distort the waves in the ocean, making them different because of constant interference and refraction and diffraction between the boats).
I've followed your work on QI and Rindler horizons with great interest.
Have you seen this paper from Dartmouth regarding the production of entangled pairs of photons from the vacuum using diamond membranes?
Reference: “Coherently amplifying photon production from vacuum with a dense cloud of accelerating photodetectors” by Hui Wang and Miles Blencowe, 10 June 2021, Communications Physics.
If I do the basic math right, kiloVolts * microAmps mean just miliWatts of power. This sounds too good to be true: this means sufficient power source should fit in something like Cubesat. And miliNewton level thrust doesn't sound bad at all for Cubesat! (mass in order of kilograms)
This makes one wonder why the effect was never observed before (but maybe it was... there were earlier attempts at capacitor-based propelantless propulsion, just not widely accepted..)
Anyway, propelantless thrust on the order of miliNewtons really should make headlines soon. This sounds just too good to be true!
I have no idea what your talking about most of the time but I do enjoy reading about this stuff, I have no idea whether this is along the same lines, it talks about casmir cavities.
Mike McCullough are you at liberty to say what the results were of your Phase 2 EmDrive study funded by DARPA are? Can we expect (hopefully) a "Phase 3" maybe with finally some kind of in-orbit testing involving the device installed in a micro-sat(s)?
Tim: Yes. The results are difficult to get out - journals are now refusing my papers. The results from the Dresden lab were negative, from the Spanish Lab positive, but with qualifications (I'm a bit sceptical). The results from capacitor tests in California and Virginia that I did not fund but helped with, have been successful and I think I now know why there is a difference. Electrons are a better acceleratand to use than photons. I thank all these labs for helping me see that. A space test has been discussed - that's all I can say at the moment.
Hi Mike, would you be able to link to somewhere which shows how to setup this experiment you explained in your post? I would like to try it out myself. Thanks for all the things you post!
"In its simplest form, anyone, with a little care for safety, can try this experiment. If you have a humble desk and a power socket then the cost is £800."
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