Author Topic: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive  (Read 2549 times)

Strait Raider

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Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« on: August 04, 2014, 01:10:41 pm »
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/187346-nasa-tests-impossible-no-fuel-quantum-space-engine-and-it-actually-works

Obviously, being a very recent and not-yet-reviewed discovery, with very small measurable results, it's very possible this may yet turn out to be malarkey.

Now I'm a skeptical man, but I know enough about quantum mechanics to know that I don't really understand quantum mechanics. I've heard far more bizzare concepts in quantum mechanics that are treated as accepted facts now, so I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt. According to the people smarter than me, the principals that this drive is built on have been well-proven.

As we've established, I'm not an expert in quantum mechanics, but I gather that this is how it works:

You've probably all heard about Heisenberg's 1927 Uncertainty Principle (the more precisely you know the position of a particle, the less precisely you know its momentum). What is less known is the Mandelshtam-Tamm relation for energy and time, discovered in 1945 which relates in a similar method energy and time. (Both principles would later be found to be results of the more general Certainty Principal) For very small measures of time, energy is uncertain, and the conservation of energy can appear to be violated (for a very small period of time).

http://daarb.narod.ru/tcpqa-eng.html

This is Quantum Fluctuation, the temporary change in the amount of energy in space, which allows the spontaneous creation of (short lived) "virtual particle" particle-antiparticle pairs. And while "virtual particle" might be a bit of a misnomer, we know these quantum fluctuations happen, and they produce a measurable effect on the forces in certain experiments.

Fascinating article: http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/quantum-fluctuations-and-their-energy/

A Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive is an attempt to see if these short-lived "virtual particles" can be useful as a propellant. As they occur everywhere, even in a classical total vacuum, the implications are obvious: You wouldn't have to carry around propellant. The drive, in theory, ionizes these "virtual particles" and uses crossed electric and magnetic fields to expel these particles at high velocity, in the same manner as conventional electric-drive engines.

And apparently the initial results are producing a net force which may be in line with the theory. Tests in China, Argentina, and the US have all reported potentially positive results, but with varying levels of performance.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20140006052.pdf

So, to get a few things straight, it is NOT A REACTIONLESS DRIVE and does not violate the conservation of momentum - while the drive carries no propellant itself, it uses propellant formed spontaneously from the very fabric of the universe. Nor is it FREE ENERGY and does not violate the conservation of energy - the system requires energy and effectively converts that electrical energy into kinetic energy.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2014, 01:15:05 pm by Strait Raider »

Aaron

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2014, 03:04:15 pm »
Very interesting.  I thought at first its advantage would be no exhaust (so it could be placed in a sealed compartment); but that doesn't seem to be the case, as it appears to only receive the fuel source from "no-where", and still needs to jet it out the back.

So the advantages over Ion would be no need to store the Xenon/gas, giving the QVPD potentially interstellar range assuming it has a lasting power supply (solar/isotope), or the ability to provide maneuvering thrusters for satellites indefinitely (assuming nothing mechanically goes wrong).

I'd imagine Ion is a more powerful alternative for interplanetary travel, but I guess we don't have any guesstimate on velocity.
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Voltaire

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2014, 08:53:10 am »
Very interesting.  I thought at first its advantage would be no exhaust (so it could be placed in a sealed compartment); but that doesn't seem to be the case, as it appears to only receive the fuel source from "no-where", and still needs to jet it out the back.

So the advantages over Ion would be no need to store the Xenon/gas, giving the QVPD potentially interstellar range assuming it has a lasting power supply (solar/isotope), or the ability to provide maneuvering thrusters for satellites indefinitely (assuming nothing mechanically goes wrong).

I'd imagine Ion is a more powerful alternative for interplanetary travel, but I guess we don't have any guesstimate on velocity.

Good point.  Though, the electrical power still has to come from somewhere though, and once you go inter-stellar space I'm not sure you would be getting enough via solar panels - though I suppose you have nuclear fuel cells; good for a few light years.  Wouldnt like to guess what the service costs would be though :)

 I can also see this as being a good backup / extra propulsion system.  Largely self contained by the sounds of it.

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2014, 09:22:01 am »
Nooklear wessel een spaec.

Service costs would be pretty allright I assume, judging from the fact that Curiocity is run by an on-board atomic power plant and still running on a dusty planet, I'd say that space travel will be fine.
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theallmightybob

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2014, 05:39:41 pm »
Good point.  Though, the electrical power still has to come from somewhere though, and once you go inter-stellar space I'm not sure you would be getting enough via solar panels - though I suppose you have nuclear fuel cells; good for a few light years.  Wouldnt like to guess what the service costs would be though :)

 I can also see this as being a good backup / extra propulsion system.  Largely self contained by the sounds of it.

your power source only needs to last for as long as your acceleration period (and then again when you want to decelerate), once you have reached your desired sub light speed in open space nothing really slows you down that much.


overall its a neat concept and i hope that NASA can get independent labs to confirm their results. a thruster that does not have to carry its own reaction mass is a very attractive thing for a long rang craft, if this thing can be refined to the level of even an ion thruster it will be pretty useful.
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DiscK

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2014, 08:51:23 am »
I'm not really sure how it works, can someone explain how it produces "thrust" from the fluctuations?
This might turn out like the "neutrinos are faster than light" deal, but it would really be gorgeous if it turns out to be true, if at all possible. It needs to be tested more.
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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2014, 03:56:17 pm »
I'm not really sure how it works, can someone explain how it produces "thrust" from the fluctuations?

No, no one can really explain it, which is why it's so mysterious. The comments I've read demand real-world testing (instead of lab testing) to see what actually happens and account for false-positives.

Quote
This might turn out like the "neutrinos are faster than light" deal

It sounds largely like this is the case, though how it got through NASA I've no clue. Their funding is pretty slashed up though...

Even if it is *not* a false-positive or misinterpreted result and *is* a magic drive, it produces almost no thrust. So it's no really that great; you'd probably still need to use stages to go interstellar in any kind of reasonable (less than hundreds of years) timeframe.
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Strait Raider

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2014, 02:07:19 pm »
Allow me to play the Devil's Advocate here.

No, no one can really explain it, which is why it's so mysterious. The comments I've read demand real-world testing (instead of lab testing) to see what actually happens and account for false-positives.

It sounds largely like this is the case, though how it got through NASA I've no clue. Their funding is pretty slashed up though...

Actually, explaining how it works is the easy part. The difficult part is figuring out whether or not it actually does work.

We KNOW that "virtual particles" exist and can produce measurable effects in experiments (such as the Casimir effect).

We KNOW we can ionize particles and create thrust using ionized particles as propellant, we've been using ion thrusters on spacecraft for more than a decade.

The question remains whether we can ionize these virtual particles and produce thrust with them, which depends on the exact nature of "virtual particles" (which is by nature, inexact). See, "virtual particles" aren't really particles at all, they're perturbations in various fields. BUT WAIT! "Real" particles aren't particles either, they're also just a ripple in a field, although they are regular disturbances rather than transient. At this point I start going crosseyed, but basically "virtual" and "real" particles don't seem to be so different that they couldn't be used in the same way as our regular propellants.

I guess the short answer is "Yes, if the prevailing theories are correct it could work, but we're on the bleeding edge of theoretical physics and we're not really sure what's going to happen."

And that is why we experiment. Evidently NASA saw enough merit to at least give it a chance, which they don't do for just any hairbrained scheme.

Quote
Even if it is *not* a false-positive or misinterpreted result and *is* a magic drive, it produces almost no thrust. So it's no really that great; you'd probably still need to use stages to go interstellar in any kind of reasonable (less than hundreds of years) timeframe.

Well, let's have a little context. From 2003 to 2010, the Hyabusa spacecraft went from earth orbit, intercepted an asteroid, returned to earth and de-orbited with ion drive. The maximum thrust of this drive was 32 millinewtons. The drive fired for almost 9000 hours. (almost 300,000 Newton-Seconds of impulse) The craft also carried 75 kg of propellant (15% of the entire mass of the craft), though it only used 50 kg.

Which is why a functional drive of only a couple of millinewtons thrust would still be a massive breakthrough. A drive that could fire even at very low thrust for years on end with no propellant storage would be the ultimate in specific impulse.

As anyone who's played Kerbal Space Program can tell you, the farther you're going, the less thrust matters and the more specific impulse matters.

Granted, even if NASA's 40 micronewton results are true (China's 750 millinewton claim seems patently ridiculous), that's still about 100x smaller than what one might consider useful. It is however, the very first test of a fledgling and ill-understood device, so if it does work in principle it is likely that future devices would perform much better.

(For that matter, I don't even know if the test device weighed 5 kg or 500 kg, that kind of makes a big difference in how significant those results are)
« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 02:09:10 pm by Strait Raider »

Iago

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 09:59:13 am »
RE: Thrust
Remember that the thrust you are getting is proportional to the power you are pumping into them
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silver7017

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2014, 04:07:18 pm »
an important note here is that in that experiment, the so-called null drive, which had the slots removed (with the intent of eliminating the thrust, as the virtual particles would have no where to go) also produced the same amount of thrust as the actual drive. this is reasonably conclusive evidence that if this is not an experimental error, then the hypothesis for the drive's function will need to be revised. the month prior, nasa also tested another such drive design: the emdrive created by roger shawyer. shawyer has a hypothesis based on group velocity and relativistic effects for explaining how his drive works. the chinese drive was built on a paper published two years prior to the publication of the drive's results, and they push yet another hypothesis: one written from a quantum physics perspective relating to extracting momentum from a resonant system.

the thing to take away from all this is that it seems like there is something strange going on here. we've got three sources now, all claiming to have measurable results. time will tell, as more parties build and test this design. probably the most important point of all of this is that pretty much no one, including those who have actually built these drives, know how they work.

regarding the actual numbers, some of you have remarked that it would be great to get these working at greater efficiency than hall effect thrusters (ion) at some point in the future. interestingly enough, shawyer's and the chinese results (which numerically agree, roughly) show an improvement of thrust per power over ion by a factor of about 6. someone also mentioned that the chinese results were unbelievable - keep in mind that their system was MUCH higher power than either of the others tested so far. their ratio wasn't too much different from shawyer's, nor was it far off when nasa tested shawyer's design.

if anyone is interested in the current events related to this: shawyer, pretty much credited as the guy who came up with this idea first, has actually already build a superconducting cavity, and claims that it produces thrust in line with his original calculations for what a superconducting drive would be capable of. amusingly enough, the use of a superconducting cavity matching his numbers doesn't actually lend shawyer any greater likelihood that his hypothesis for the drive's function is correct. the use of a superconducting cavity is to increase the q of the cavity, which basically just means reducing the amount of energy lost by the cavity while it is in operation. an increased q simply means that you need to spend less energy in order to keep the system working at a certain level, which would be good no matter which hypothesis ends up applying here.

skeptical though everyone should be about this, I'm certainly starting to get excited too.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2014, 04:47:23 pm by silver7017 »

Cy83r

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Re: Quantum Vacuum Plasma Drive
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2014, 11:18:52 pm »
i think i can summarize: the engine extracts work out of virtual particle pairs before they annihilate

it is like refilling the boiler on a steam engine with rain water as it comes down from the clouds- and it is always drizzling
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