May 17, 2006 12:19 PM PDT

Smokeless rockets launching soon?

CORONADO, Calif.--Only time and money separate the current state of rocket propulsion science from the engine rooms of Star Trek's Starfleet, according to a university professor.

James Woodward, a history professor at California State University in Fullerton, presented his research into Mach-Lorentz thrusters Wednesday at the Future in Review conference here. Mach-Lorentz thrusters (MLTs), assuming they can be scaled up from lab tests, could provide a new source of propulsion that "puts out thrust without blowing stuff out the tailpipe," Woodward said.

Click for photo

MLTs are based on Mach's principle, which suggests that all particles in the universe have an effect on each other, and the work of Hendrik Lorentz, who conducted research into the movement of charged particles in a magnetic field. Woodward has constructed an engine that takes advantage of the fact that objects produce energy when their mass changes slightly, he said.

Woodward used capacitors to change the mass of an object and then applied a current to that mass. That produces a small amount of thrust. Increasing the voltage and frequency of the current increases the strength of the thrust, to the point where the engine could be used to adjust the orbit of a satellite, or push a rocket into space.

The MLT is similar to the "impulse engines" used by the starships in the "Star Trek" television series and movies, although on a much smaller scale. At some point, the MLT might be able to take things further and send space travelers across the universe at something approaching warp speed, but that's way out in the distance.

Only about a dozen of these MLTs have been produced in Woodward's labs, but they work, Woodward said. The issue now is getting the funding together to drive further research, and the time needed to overcome hurdles as these MLTs scale up to the size needed to send a payload into orbit. Right now, these devices produce a lot of heat as a byproduct that must be removed from the thruster. Early applications for MLTs could include booster rockets on satellites to allow them to adjust their position in orbit, he said.

See more CNET content tagged:
rocket, professor, Star Trek, capacitor, engine

46 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Sounds like these physicists need a few chemists
I can't speak for these physicists, but as a chemical engineer, there's at least one major use for excess heat that plant design engineers have been employing for, well, centuries.

Pump it into water to make steam! Steam is immensely useful for driving just about all sorts of machines. I haven't seen the spec sheets, but assuming the amount of heat generated isn't enough to vaporize a small ocean, you could easily transfer the heat to steam to be used in other parts of a machine as a driver.

Heck, why stop at rockets? Tie the thing to a string and let it go in a circular path, driving its own crank as well as emitting enough heat to drive steam turbines as well?

Anyone else out there willing to dream the dream with me?
:)
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reactionless drive
The only propellant required is electricity - and would doubtless be solar power for space-based applications. And propellant never runs out, so long as some sort of energy source is available. Thus truly propellantless propulsion.

The description is somewhat flawed; not mentioned is that a magnetic field is set up in order to "push when heavy, pull when light", and this is the source of the unidirectional thrust.

Achieved thrust levels to date have not reproducibly exceeded about one gram-weight.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Chemists are indeed needed
but more pressingly, not for a closed loop design as you indicate, but for appropriate selection of the best dielectric material to optimise MLT thrust. In fact, material scientists are the people most required. The current dielectrics used in experiments have been the ferroelectrics, and in particular the barium titanate derivatives.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cold Fusion Redux?
This system sounds a bit silly. It sounds too much like the University of Utah Chemists' Cold Fusion claims... How so?
Not enough data.
No peer reviewed papers.
No reproducibility outside the claimants labs.
etc.

Besides... I know of no reproducible experiment where the real mass of an object has ever been reduced and then restored. "Effective mass", yes ... as in the "effective mass" of electrons in a semiconductor. But the real mass of the electron never changes.

Additionally, I know of no reproducible experiment where the inertial mass of an object has ever been decoupled from its gravitational mass. The claims made here strongly imply they've done that.
Posted by shadowself (202 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Standard physics
Actually, it' you who sound "a bit silly". The theory (which I advise you to examine before speculating; it would crispen up your statements wonderfully) in no way attempts to break the equivalence principle between intertial and gravitational mass.

As for peer review, again you didn't bother reading any references at the end of any papers, did you? This work has been scrutinised in peer-reviewed journals since the early nineties, chiefly but not limited to Foundations of Physics.

In one matter you are correct; you don't know of any such experiment.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
nothing like a redux
If you don't know about the work done here over the last decade or so, why not just say "I don't know about this?"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html" target="_newWindow">http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html</a>
Posted by Therofax (7 comments )
Link Flag
nothing like a redux
If you don't know about the work done here over the last decade or so, why not just say "I don't know about this?"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html" target="_newWindow">http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html</a>
Posted by Therofax (7 comments )
Link Flag
Onward to Propellentless Propulsion
Looks like this could be the first step to getting rid of propellant propulsion, rockets.

Propellentless propulsion would allow us to travel the universe without the need for a gas station fillup.
Posted by grey_eminence (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then it wouldn't be a rocket.
If there is no propellant and therefore no ejecta, then you are not using rocket propulsion.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
Change in Mass
Does anyone know if the change in mass is the result of ionization
as the compound passes through a capacitor? Is he just stripping
electrons and making a small change? Or is he doing something
more exotic that changes the mass of the proton or neutron? If it is
the latter, is the change in mass bounded at zero? It would seem to
me if it wasn't bounded at zero then conservation of energy would
be violated. Negative mass would have negative inertia and
therefore infinite potential energy.
Posted by Chris Barnes (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah
Yeah Im fairly certain theyre either violating basic physics or thermodynamics (which of course means theres an external source for the kinetic energy they arent taking into account).

Too bad they arent publishing more information Id like to know how they are removing the earths magnetic field as a possible cause for the effect.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
....
yep.
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Link Flag
Wikipedia
It's usually reasonable to start such searches for information with
wikipedia. Although not always accurate, it usually gets you going
in the right direction:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mach%27s_principle" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mach%27s_principle</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrik_Lorentz" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrik_Lorentz</a>
Posted by samkass (310 comments )
Link Flag
Mass fluctuation is Machian in nature
according to the theory.
The link to Woodward's website in the article takes you directly to a collection of papers. This is where one should go to answer this question. The papers are not post-doc mathematics standard; they should instead be accessible to anyone with at least a smattering of calculus and some basic physics understanding.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
Mass fluctuation is Machian in nature
according to the theory.
The link to Woodward's website in the article takes you directly to a collection of papers. This is where one should go to answer this question. The papers are not post-doc mathematics standard; they should instead be accessible to anyone with at least a smattering of calculus and some basic physics understanding.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
Mass fluctuation is Machian in origin
according to the theory.
The link to Woodward's website in the article takes you directly to a collection of papers. This is where one should go to answer this question. The papers are not post-doc mathematics standard; they should instead be accessible to anyone with at least a smattering of calculus and some basic physics understanding.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
This takes the cake: I need a drink
Let's hope it pans out. Really this is the most exciting news.com article I've read. All the years that people have been shunning FTL travel ideas and all the kooks and now a semi-formal article on the subject by a professor.

Well, makes sense to me so far. I talk on Physics forums too and we had been discussing stuff like this back and forth. I am not a scientist but more for hobby.
Not totally sure what they are talking about, but seems like a contained propeller effect. Allot of chemical is wasted when the propellent isn't contained like with the space shuttle. It's completely archaic based on only what's in from of our noses. It has to change.

I thought about this a while ago as far as a very efficient rocket. Also looking at older movies like, The Explorers, they used a Laser shield bubble as a vehicle, to move through space and hard material.

Not sure about the impulse Engines it's been a while since I've checked out Star Trek.
I think with this combined with nano-tech we can have those large space ships I always wanted. Also something like this might resolve the anti-gravity issue if it's able to defy light speed. I think gravity is more powerful then light.

If they wanted to go warp speed somehow they would need to measure smaller particles then we are used of or interact with gravity which I think has a faster then light effect. The Wikipedia article listed has good info on this. Something that's smaller then your average photon.

Funny how entertainers and writers (Star Trek) can think like scientists. It shows how our brains work.
Were all geniuses we just think differently.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
err what
this article makes no mention of FTL travel. And the physics behind this research has no way of breaking the law of relativity and nothing ever will. When you talk of warp its not thrust thats making you travel that fast its the fact that your compressing the space between you and your destination and traveling this reduced distance then putting it back to normal. which so far hasn't been done by anyone except mr kirk and picard
Posted by R K K9684 (13 comments )
Link Flag
history professor?
So a history professor tried to create a propellant-less rocket and solved the problem of high speed space travel?

History has told us that the only things between turth and lies are time and money. Did he learn that from his history studies?
Posted by hackingbear (79 comments )
Reply Link Flag
history professor?
So a history professor tried to create a propellant-less rocket and solved the problem of high speed space travel?

History has told us that the only things between truth and lies are time and money. Did he learn that from his history studies?
Posted by hackingbear (79 comments )
Reply Link Flag
hmmm. . .
I believe, though I am not sure; that Dr. Woodward also holds an honorary Ph.D. in physics. Anyone familiar with his work would agree he deserves one.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html" target="_newWindow">http://chaos.fullerton.edu/~jimw/Woodward-3.html</a>
Posted by Therofax (7 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds pretty cool
If humans are going to do any time of serious, repetative work in space, this will require many take offs on a daily basis, like in the movies.

The current technology is too weak, dirty and not as reliable.

Scientists should figure out how to improve photovoltaic cells as well so to cut down on polution and increase free energy.

Currently when the sun enters the cells, boundary between dissimilar substances makes the energy, but we all know that you don't need sun light to make electricity, magnetic induction makes that posibble. They need to make new materials so that when the sun hits it, the voltage difference not only happens, but it further induces a greater difference in the magnetic properties of the material so that the cell produces much more then what it does today. An entire house could be easily powered with the fraction of the cells in use today.

Just a matter of using the brain for science and not war. All of these could have been figured out if the government got serious in scientific research.

If you think God will lift his pinky figer to help you, be ready for a suprise.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Reply Link Flag
History Proff.. in science..
Link to short desc. for Woodward

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://my.fullerton.edu/facultyexpert/subjectAreaPerson.aspx?PersonID=117" target="_newWindow">http://my.fullerton.edu/facultyexpert/subjectAreaPerson.aspx?PersonID=117</a>
Posted by whirabomber (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Woodward's MLT Thruster
Hi All:

American Antigravity has been covering Woodward's research into MLT thruster technology for the last year -- it's making some exciting progress, both through Woodward's own work, as well as that of his associates, Andrew Palfreyman, Paul March, and Peter Vandeventer.

All of them have created independent replications of the MLT technology, and we've interview March &#38; Palfreyman extensively on American Antigravity to get a better understand of what makes their technology so compelling. I also had the opportunity to meet Jim Woodward in person at the STAIF 2006 Conference, and was very impressed by his thoughtful approach to the challenges of future propulsion.

One of the hallmarks of STAIF 2006 was the announcement that NASA has discontinued ALL work in Breakthrough Physics Propulsion in favor of Apollo-era "Heritage Technologies". Thus, the work of Woodward &#38; company takes on a new importance as being one of the only efforts out there pursuing solid ideas in reactionless propulsion in a formal physics context.

Andrew Palfreyman MLT Interview:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/442/1/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/442/1/</a>

Paul March MLT Video Interview:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/441/1/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/441/1/</a>

The Woodward Effect (by Paul March)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/blogs/12/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/blogs/12/</a>

..and.. of course, Jim's own site, administered by Grad-student Peter Vandeventer:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.woodwardeffect.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.woodwardeffect.org</a>

Best wishes;

Tim Ventura
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com</a>
Posted by timventura (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Woodward Video Links
Andrew Palfreyman MLT Interview:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/442/1/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/442/1/</a>

Paul March MLT Video Interview:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/441/1/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/articles/441/1/</a>

The Woodward Effect (by Paul March)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.americanantigravity.com/blogs/12/" target="_newWindow">http://www.americanantigravity.com/blogs/12/</a>

..and.. of course, Jim's own site, administered by Grad-student Peter Vandeventer:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.woodwardeffect.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.woodwardeffect.org</a>
Posted by timventura (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
mystory
I fail to see the importance of the mtl thruster.

A common eletric motor runs clean and when enough power is applyed it runs faster and over heats

What's New
Posted by topflight555 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Roads in Space
An electric motor isn't going to do you any good when you can't create thrust with it.

Am I missing something here?
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Illiterate trolls
aren't much fun. It's like watching a gorilla sniff a computer case.

I suppose none of you guys will be getting a science education. Good luck flipping burgers.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
I saw spaceships hover silently before flying off
Two times I've been lucky enough to see UFO's. Both times I was
with others who saw them too. One, a huge triangular shape,
hovered right over 4 of us for about a minute. It was silent. No
rocket motors held it up. I've seen Harrier jump jets hover, and
they seem supported on a column of pure noise.

We have to learn about reactionless thrust before we can leave
our solar system. It can be done -- I've seen it being done.
Perhaps dark matter can be harnessed, say with dark energy.
Rockets are old hat. The Chinese invented them a thousand
years ago. We know a lot more physics now than they did then.

It takes genius, on top of other genius' work. That or having
some friendly space alien tell us how they do it. Good luck. We
can't even live in our own world without extincting everything
else that we don't use. So far we don't deserve cosmic freedom.
Maybe we will someday. I'm glad some species have done it.
Posted by JackfromBerkeley (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is what is known
as an existence proof. Many know, few talk about it.
Posted by LordSnooty (71 comments )
Link Flag
What Smoke?
for the sake of arguement, what comes out of the rocket boosters launching the shuttles?
It is steam, pure and simple! The shuttle boosters are fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The resultant burn produces H2O - water - albeit at a high temperature, and colorless. Due to the rapid cooling of the steam in atmosphere, it condenses to form clouds of water vapour, just like the ones nature makes.
So we do have smokeless rockets already! There is a maxim in pollution - what you can see is generally not harmfull, it's the invisible products that kill.
Geof
Posted by kondoli (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Smokeless is just a headline
The point of the article is that this professor claims to have invented an engine that ouputs NO mass. No smoke, no steam, not even an ion stream. That's why they kept refering to Star Trek in the article.

This isn't an issue of clean air (or clean vacuum.) This is a matter of whether or not a SciFi fantasy has been brought to life. Comparing the shuttle engines to a Star Fleet Impulse Engine is like comparing a RoboSapien from Radio Shack to the HAL 9000. (Warp Drive is closer to Lt. Cmdr. Data)

OTOH, I'm not expert in these matters so I can't say why this engine wouldn't violate the law of conservation of momentum. Not that it can't be incomplete or something.
Posted by zemoxian (6 comments )
Link Flag
Not all water
The solid rocket boosters provide 84% of the thrust during liftoff. They burn Ammonium Perchlorate Composite Propellant. The smoke is toxic, nasty stuff.
Chris
Posted by emctester (1 comment )
Link Flag
Smokeless rockets launching soon?
for the sake of arguement, what comes out of the rocket boosters launching the shuttles?
It is steam, pure and simple! The shuttle boosters are fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The resultant burn produces H2O - water - albeit at a high temperature, and colorless. Due to the rapid cooling of the steam in atmosphere, it condenses to form clouds of water vapour, just like the ones nature makes.
So we do have smokeless rockets already! There is a maxim in pollution - what you can see is generally not harmfull, it's the invisible products that kill.
Geof
Posted by kondoli (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re
I think you mean't to say main engine, not boosters.
Posted by bosswires (1 comment )
Link Flag
Infinite Universe
Somewhere, there really is a Starship Enterprise and it looks just like the one we're familiar with. The captain is a chubby guy who-talks--like-this and has a bad rug, and the ship is capable of objective and subjective FTL drive without too much of the tedious tau-factor time-dilation debris required by Einstein. (Of course, another looks exactly like Fireball XL5 and Robert The Robot looks like The Doctor from Voyager and the crew are all Daleks.) The point of infinity is that not only *CAN* everything exist, it *MUST*. If we buy into the infinite universe, we buy into "Galaxy Quest" being real, and "Forbidden Planet", and "Alien" -- *SOMEWHERE*. It's not a choice: in an infinite universe, everything (by definition) *MUST* be happening somewhere within it. It's an interesting thought that science fiction writers and artists, even scientists like Einstein and Hawking, may be relating real visions of science and adventure that they may only distantly and dimly grasp, but are based on real events elsewhere occuring. (How many times have you really gotten a straight answer from any of the above-listed types of people when you ask them, "Where do you get your ideas?" At least some of us (visual artists) will answer "I paint what I see..." and I've dealt with writers who'll honestly answer "I saw it in a dream/vision..." -- maybe we're seeing long-distant pictures of reality. So: warp drive is not out of the question, just temporarily beyond our understanding (or, given my hypothesis, just ever-so-slightly out of the reach of our long-distance communications skills.) Food for thought. (BTW: Buckminsterfullerene chains would make a fine elevator to space in the meantime, and while we'd like to invent a space-warping reactionless drive, at least a tower to orbit would improve our access to laboratories with different gee-forces that might improve our understanding of the interaction between all the known forces and aid in our quest for the Grand Unification of Weak, Strong, Electromagnetic, Gravitational, and probably at least 4 or 5 others we don't even suspect exist yet. String theory is a good step, but it's too gravitationally and electromagnetically dense on Earth to get good readings. I think we'll find that what we relate to as "time" is also a malleable force, one that can be influenced or distorted, and I think we'll find it more closely related to momentum (as we think of it) than motion (beyond our perceptions of three dimensions changing through a 4th). A subtle difference, I admit ... but if you can change the rules governing momentum ir inertia, then motion can become instantaneous from one point to another. Believing that we are limited to taking time to travel from one point to another (motion) without accounting for momentum (which would not exist, or would be greatly reduced in an FTL culture) is the equivalent to the "Sound Barrier" at Mach 1 ... It absolutely cannot be broken. But somewhere, in an infinite universe, it *has* been, an infinite number of times and in infinite fashion. It will be again, an infinite number of times. I don't think it's out of line for us to take our turn at it. ("Infinite Improbability Drive" was discovered by a lab tech cleaning up after a party, after all...) LOL!
Posted by warrenwr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.