Woodward effect

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How thrust is hypothesized to be produced by the Woodward effect. The C represents a capacitor element, L represents an inductor element.

The Woodward effect, also referred to as a Mach effect, one of at least three predicted Mach effects, is part of a hypothesis proposed by James F. Woodward in 1990.[1] The theory states that transient mass fluctuations arise in any object that absorbs internal energy while undergoing a proper acceleration. Harnessing this effect could generate a thrust, which Woodward and others claim to measure in various experiments.[2][3] If proven to exist, the Woodward effect could be used in the design of spacecraft engines of a field propulsion engine that would not have to expel matter to accelerate. Such an engine would be a breakthrough in space travel.[4][5] So far, no conclusive proof of the existence of this effect has been presented.[6] Experiments to confirm and utilize this effect by Woodward and others continue.[7]

Mach effects[edit]

According to Woodward there are at least three Mach effects theoretically possible: vectored impulse thrust, open curvature of spacetime, and closed curvature of spacetime.[8]

The first effect, the Woodward effect, is the minimal energy effect of the theory. The Woodward effect is focused primarily on proving the theory and providing the basis of a Mach effect impulse thruster. In the first of three general Mach effects for propulsion or transport, the Woodward effect is an impulse effect usable for in-orbit satellite stationkeeping, spacecraft reaction control systems, or at best, thrust within the solar system. The second and third effects are open and closed spacetime effects. Open curved spacetime effects can be applied in a field generation system to produce warp fields. Closed curve spacetime effects would be part of a field generation system to generate wormholes.

With greatly increased power levels beyond the Woodward effect, Mach effects for curving or bending spacetime may be possible for both open and closed spacetime curves,[citation needed] in particular, frame dragging and closed timelike curves. Theoretically, open curved space can be used to generate warp fields for an Alcubierre drive. Experimental research is focused on the first two effects. For over ten years now the Woodward effect has been under research to produce impulse propulsion.[citation needed] Recently, NASA started researching small curved-space effects using the White–Juday warp-field interferometer.[citation needed]

The third Mach effect is a closed curve spacetime effect or closed timelike curve called a benign wormhole. Closed curve space is generally known as a wormhole or black hole. Prompted by Carl Sagan for the scientific basis of wormhole transport in the movie Contact, Kip Thorne [9] developed the theory of benign wormholes. The generation, stability and traffic control of transport through a benign wormhole is only theoretical at present. One difficulty is the requirement for energy levels approximating a "Jupiter size mass".

These three Mach effects - thrust, open curved space and closed timelike curves - are developed from only the first two terms in the delta mass equation since the contribution from the third effect is considered[by whom?] extremely small. There is a third term which only becomes significant when larger stellar masses are used. In the distant future, the third term may provide a source of additional Mach effects.[citation needed]

Theory[edit]

Gravity origin of inertia[edit]

The Woodward effect is based on the relativistic effects theoretically derived from Mach's Principle on inertia within general relativity and is attributed by Albert Einstein to Ernst Mach.[10] Mach's Principle is generally defined as "the local inertia frame is completely determined by the dynamic fields in the Universe."[11]

A formulation of Mach's principle has been firstly proposed as a vector theory of gravity, modeled on Maxwell's formalism for electrodynamics, by Dennis Sciama in 1953,[12] who then reformulated it in a tensor formalism equivalent to general relativity in 1964.[13]

Sciama stated that instantaneous inertial forces in all accelerating objects are produced by a primordial gravity-based inertial radiative field (now referred as "G/I field" or "gravinertial field") created by distant cosmic matter and propagating both forwards and backwards in time at light speed. As previously formulated by Sciama, Woodward suggests that Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory would be the correct way to understand the action of instantaneous inertial forces in Machian terms.[14][15][16]

Sciama's inertial-induction idea has been shown to be correct in Einstein's general relativity for any Friedmann–Robertson–Walker cosmology.[17][18] According to Woodward, the Mach effects derivation is relativistically invariant, so the conservation laws are satisfied, and no "new physics" is involved besides general relativity.[19]

Transient mass fluctuation[edit]

The following has been detailed by Woodward in various peer-reviewed papers throughout the last twenty years.[20][21][22]

According to Woodward, a transient mass fluctuation arises in an object when it absorbs "internal" energy as it is accelerated. Several devices could be built to store internal energy during accelerations. A measurable effect needs to be driven at a high frequency, so macroscopic mechanical systems are out of question since the rate at which their internal energy could be modified is too limited. The only systems that could run at a high frequency are electromagnetic energy storage devices. For fast transient effects, batteries are ruled out. A magnetic energy storage device like an inductor using a high permeability core material to transfer the magnetic energy could be especially built. But capacitors are preferable to inductors because compact devices storing energy at a very high energy density without electrical breakdown are readily available. Shielding electrical interferences are easier than shielding magnetic ones. Ferroelectric materials can be used to make high frequency electro-mechanical actuators, and they are themselves capacitors so they can be used for both energy storage and acceleration. Finally, capacitors are cheap and available in various configurations. So Mach effects experiments have always relied on capacitors so far.

When the dielectric of a capacitor is submitted to a varying electric power (charge or discharge), Woodward's theory predicts [22] a transient mass fluctuation arises according to the transient mass equation (TME):


\delta m_0 =
\frac{1}{4\pi G}\left[\frac{1}{\rho_0 c^2}\frac{\partial P}{\partial t} -
\left(\frac{1}{\rho_0 c^2}\right)^2 \frac{P^2}{V}\right]

Where:

This equation is not the full Woodward equation as seen in the book. There is a third term,  - \left(\frac{\partial}{\partial t} \frac{\phi}{c^2} \right)^2 , which Woodward discounts because his gauge sets \frac{\phi}{c^2} \approx 1; the derivatives of this quantity must therefore be negligible.[22]

Propellantless propulsion[edit]

The previous equation shows that when the dielectric material of a capacitor is cyclically charged then discharged while being accelerated, its mass density fluctuates, by around plus or minus its rest mass value. Then a device can be made to oscillate either in a linear or orbital path, such that its mass density is higher while the mass is moving forward, and lower while moving backward. Thus creating an acceleration of the device in the forward direction, i.e. a thrust. This effect, used repeatedly, does not expel any particle and thus would represent a type of apparent propellantless propulsion, which seems to be in contradiction with Newton's third law of motion. However, Woodward states there is no violation of momentum conservation in Mach effects:[20]

Two terms are important for propulsion on the right-hand side of the previous equation:

  • The first, linear term \tfrac{1}{\rho_0 c^2}\tfrac{\partial P}{\partial t} is called the "impulse engine" term because it expresses mass fluctuation depending on the derivative of the power, and scales linearly with the frequency. Past and current experiments about Mach effects thrusters are designed to demonstrate thrust and the control of one type of Mach effect.
  • The second, quadratic term -\left(\tfrac{1}{\rho_0 c^2}\right)^2 \tfrac{P^2}{V} is what Woodward calls the "wormhole" term, because it is always negative. Although this term appears to be many orders of magnitude weaker than the first term, which makes it usually negligible, theoretically, the second term's effect could become huge in some circumstances. The second term, the wormhole term, is indeed driven by the first impulse engine term, which fluctuates mass by around plus or minus the rest mass value. When fluctuations reach a very high amplitude and mass density is driven very close to zero, the equation shows that mass should achieve very large negative values very quickly, with a strong non-linear behavior. In this regard, the Woodward effect could generate exotic matter, although this still remains very speculative due to the lack of any available experiment that would highlight such an effect.

Applications of propellantless propulsion include straight line thruster or impulse engine, open curved fields for starship warp drives, and even the possibility of closed curved fields such as traversable benign wormholes. [23]

Space travel[edit]

Current spacecraft achieve a change in velocity by the expulsion of propellant, the extraction of momentum from stellar radiation pressure or the stellar wind or the utilisation of a gravity assist ("slingshot") from a planet or moon. These methods are limiting in that rocket propellants have to be accelerated as well and are eventually depleted, and the stellar wind or the gravitational fields of planets can only be utilized locally in the Solar System. In interstellar space and bereft of the above resources, different forms of propulsion are needed to propel a spacecraft, and they are referred to as advanced or exotic.[24][25]

Impulse engine[edit]

If the Woodward effect is confirmed and if an engine can be designed to use applied Mach effects, then a spacecraft may be possible that could maintain a steady acceleration into and through interstellar space without the need to carry along propellants. Woodward presented a paper about the concept at the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program Workshop conference in 1997,[26][27] and continued to publish on this subject thereafter.[28][29][30][31]

Even ignoring for the moment the impact on interstellar travel, future spacecraft driven by impulse engines based on Mach effects would represent an astounding breakthrough in terms of interplanetary spaceflight alone, enabling the rapid colonization of our entire solar system. Travel times being limited only by the specific power of the available power supplies and the acceleration human physiology can endure, they would allow crews to reach any moon or planet in less than three weeks. For example, a typical one-way trip at 1 g acceleration from the Earth to the Moon would last only about 4 hours; to Mars, 2 to 5 days; to the asteroid belt, 5 to 6 days; to Jupiter, 6 to 7 days.[32]

Warp drives and wormholes[edit]

As showed by the transient mass fluctuation equation above, exotic matter could be theoretically created. A large quantity of negative energy density would be the key element needed to create warp drives[33] as well as traversable wormholes.[34] As such, if proven to be scientifically valid, practically feasible and scaling as predicted by the theory, the Woodward effect could not only be used for interplanetary travel, but also for apparent faster-than-light interstellar travel:

Patents and practical devices[edit]

Two patents have been issued to Woodward and associates based on how the Woodward effect might be used in practical devices for producing thrust:

  • In 1994, the first patent was granted, titled: "Method And Apparatus To Generate Thrust By Inertial Mass Variance".[37]
  • In 2002, a second patent was granted, titled: "Method And Apparatus For Generating Propulsive Forces Without The Ejection Of Propellant".[38]
  • In 2013 a third patent was filed by the Space Studies Institute. As of March 1, 2014 the patent was still pending.

Woodward and his associates have claimed since the 1990s to have successfully measured forces at levels great enough for practical use and also claim to be working on the development of a practical prototype thruster. No practical working devices have yet been publicly demonstrated.[2][3][6][20]

Experiments[edit]

Test devices[edit]

Photograph of the 2006 Woodward effect MLT test article.

Woodward started to design and build devices using capacitors and a series of PZT thick disks. This ceramic is piezoelectric, so it can be used as an electromechanical actuator to accelerate an object placed against it: its crystalline structure expands when a certain electrical polarity is applied, then contracts when the opposite field is applied.

In the first tests, Woodward simply used a capacitor between two stacks of PZT disks. The capacitor, while being electrically charged to change its internal energy density, is shuttled back and forth between the PZT actuators. Piezoelectric materials can also generate a measurable voltage potential across their two faces when pressed, so Woodward first used some small portions of PZT material as little accelerometers put on the surface of the stack, to precisely tune the device with the power supply. Then Woodward realized that PZT material and the dielectric of a capacitor were very similar. So he built devices that are made exclusively of PZT disks, without any conventional capacitor, applying different signals to different portions of the cylindrical stack. The available picture taken by his graduate student Tom Mahood in 1999 shows a typical all-PZT stack with different disks:[39]

  • The outer, thicker disks on the left and right are the "shuttlers".
  • The inner stack of thin disks in the center are the shuttled capacitors storing energy during acceleration, where any mass shift would occur.
  • The even thinner disks placed between the shuttlers and on both side of the inner disk capacitors are the "squeezometers' acting as accelerometers.

During forward acceleration and before the transient mass change in the capacitor decays, the resultant increased momentum is transferred forward to a bulk "reaction mass" through an elastic collision (the brass end cap on the left in the picture). Conversely, the following decrease in the mass density takes place during its backward movement. While operating, the PZT stack is isolated in a Faraday cage and put on a sensitive torsion arm for thrust measurements, inside a vacuum chamber. Along the years, a wide variety of different types of devices and experimental setups have been tested. The force measuring setups have ranged from various load cell devices to ballistic pendulums to multiple torsion arm pendulums, in which movement is actually observed. Those setups have been improved against spurious effects by isolating and canceling thermal transfers, vibration and electromagnetic interference, while getting better current feeds and bearings. Null tests were also conducted.[7]

Another type of Mach effect thruster is the Mach-Lorentz thruster (MLT). It uses a charging capacitor embedded in a magnetic field created by a magnetic coil. A Lorentz force, cross product between the electric field and the magnetic field, appears and acts upon the ions inside the capacitor dielectric. In such electromagnetic experiments, the power can be applied at frequencies of several megahertz, unlike PZT stack actuators where frequency is limited to tens of kilohertz. The photograph shows the components of a Woodward effect test article used in a 2006 experiment.[40]

In the future, Woodward plans to scale thrust levels, switching from the current piezoelectric dielectric ceramics (PZT stacks) to new high-k dielectric nanocomposite polymers, like PMN, PMN-PT or CCTO. Nevertheless, such materials are new, quite difficult to find, and are electrostrictive, not piezoelectric.[41][42]

In 2013, the Space Studies Institute announced the Exotic Propulsion Initiative, a new project privately funded that aims to replicate Woodward's experiments and then, if proven successful, fully develop exotic propulsion.[43] Gary Hudson, president and CEO of SSI, presented the program at the 2014 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium.[44]

Results[edit]

From his initial paper onward Woodward has claimed that this effect is detectable with modern technology.[1] He and others have performed and continue to perform experiments to detect the small forces that are predicted to be produced by this effect. So far some groups claim to have detected forces at the levels predicted and other groups have detected forces at much greater than predicted levels or nothing at all. To date there has been no announcement conclusively confirming proof for the existence of this effect or ruling it out.[6]

  • In 1990, Woodward's original paper on Mach effects included an experiment with results.[1]
  • In 2004, Paul March of Lockheed Martin Space Operations, who started working in this research field as of 1998, presented successful replication of Woodward's previous experiments at STAIF.[51]
  • In 2004, John G. Cramer and coworkers of the University of Washington reported for NASA that they had made an experiment to test Woodward's hypothesis, but that results were inconclusive because their setup was undergoing strong electrical interference which would have masked the effects of the test if it had been conducted.[52]
  • In 2006, Paul March and Andrew Palfreyman reported experimental results exceeding Woodward's predictions by one to two orders of magnitude. Items used for this experiment are shown in the photograph above.[40]
  • In 2006, Martin Tajmar, Nembo Buldrini, Klaus Marhold and Bernhard Seifert, researchers of the Austrian Research Centers reported results of a study of the effect using a very sensitive thrust balance. The researchers recommended further tests.[53]
  • In 2010, Ricardo Marini and Eugenio Galian of the IUA (same Argentine institute as Hector Brito's) replicated previous experiments, but their results were negative and the measured effects declared as originating from spurious electromagnetic interferences only.[54]
  • In 2011, Harrold "Sonny" White of NASA Eagleworks laboratory and his team announced that they were rerunning devices from Paul March's 2006 experiment[40] using force sensors with improved sensitivity.[55]
  • In 2012 and 2013, Woodward and Heidi Fearn of California State University, Fullerton, announced the results of more experiments, searching for hypothetical spurious causes that could originate from thermal, electromagnetic or Dean drive effects, which they declared should be ruled out.[7][20][56]

Debate[edit]

Inertial Frames[edit]

All inertial frames are in a state of constant, rectilinear motion with respect to one another; they are not accelerating in the sense that an accelerometer at rest in one would detect zero acceleration. Despite their ubiquitous nature, inertial frames are still not fully understood. That they exist is certain, but what causes them to exist – and if these sources could constitute reaction-media – are still unknown. Marc Millis, of the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program, stated " For example, the notion of thrusting without propellant evokes objections of violating conservation of momentum. This, in turn, suggests that space drive research must address conservation of momentum. From there it is found that many relevant unknowns still linger regarding the source of the inertial frames against which conservation is referenced. Therefore, research should revisit the unfinished physics of inertial frames, but in the context of propulsive interactions. "[57] Mach's Principle is generally defined within general relativity as "the local inertia frame is completely determined by the dynamic fields in the Universe." Rovelli evaluated a number versions of "Mach's principle" that exist in the literature. Some are partially correct and some have been dismissed as incorrect.[11]

Conservation of momentum[edit]

Momentum is defined as mass times velocity or m v. Conservation of momentum applies to velocity terms, usually described in a two dimensional plane with a vector diagram. A vector representing velocity has both direction and magnitude. A requirement for determining conservation of momentum is that an inertial frame or frame of reference for the observer be fixed. Inertial frames are well defined for constant velocity and conservation of momentum holds for all such frames. During acceleration or a change in acceleration, conservation of momentum applies to the local inertial frame (LIF) of instantaneous velocity, not to the proper acceleration or coordinate acceleration as measured by the accelerated observer.[citation needed]

A challenge to the mathematical foundations of Woodward's theory were raised in a paper published by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2001. In the paper, John Whealton noted that the experimental results of Oak Ridge scientists can be explained in terms of force contributions due to time varying thermal expansion, and stated that a laboratory demonstration produced 100 times the Woodward effect without resorting to non-Newtonian explanations.[58] In response, Woodward published a criticism of Whealton's math and understanding of the physics involved, and built an experiment attempting to demonstrate the flaw.[59]

A change in momentum is represented usually by a force where F = ma. Whealton et al use the technical definition, F=d(mv)/dt, which can be expanded to F=m dv/dt + dm/dt v. This second term has both delta mass and v which is measured instantaneously; this term will, in general, cancel out the force from the inertial response terms predicted by Woodward. Woodward argued that the dm/dt v term does not represent a physical force on the device, because it vanishes in a frame where the device is momentarily stationary.[22]

In an appendix to his thesis, Mahood argues that the unexpectedly small magnitude of the results in his experiments are a confirmation of the cancellation predicted by Whealton; the results are instead due to higher-order mass transients which are not exactly cancelled.[46] Mahood would later describe this argument as "one of the very few things I’ve done in my life that I actually regret".[60]

Although the momentum and energy exchange with distant matter guarantees global conservation of energy and momentum, this field exchange is supplied at no material cost, unlike the case with conventional fuels. For this reason, when the field exchange is ignored, a propellantless thruster behaves locally like a free energy device. This is immediately apparent from basic Newtonian analysis: if constant power produces constant thrust, then input energy is linear with time and output (kinetic) energy is quadratic with time. Thus there exists a break-even time (or distance) of operation, above which more energy is output than is input. The longer it is allowed to accelerate, the more pronounced will this effect become.[citation needed]

Related theories[edit]

Woodward's hypothesis is related to Dennis William Sciama's formulation of Mach's principle in which the fluctuations in mass are hypothesized to result from gravity/inertia radiation reactions based on Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory, an interpretation of electrodynamics that starts from the idea that a solution to the electromagnetic field equations has to be symmetric with respect to time-inversion or T-symmetry, as are the field equations themselves. Electromagnetic field equations include but are not limited to Maxwell's equations and Jefimenko's equations.[61] [62]

The Woodward effect is also related to the Nordtvedt effect that suggests that massive bodies should fall at different rates depending upon their gravitational self-energy. This would violate the strong equivalence principle that the laws of gravitation are independent of velocity and location, a principle considered fundamental by many theoretical physicists.[63] Data collected by the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment[64] and subsequent analysis has ruled out the Nordtvedt effect to high precision.[65][66]

Quantum Mechanics[edit]

In 2009, Harold "Sonny" White of NASA proposed the Quantum Vacuum Fluctuation (QVF) conjecture, a non-relativistic theory based on quantum mechanics to produce momentum fluxes even in empty outer space.[67] Where Sciama's gravinertial field of Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory is used in the Woodward effect, the White conjecture replaces the Sciama gravinertial field with the Quantum Electrodynamic Vacuum field. The local reactive forces are generated and conveyed by momentum fluxes created in the QED vacuum field by the same process used to create momentum fluxes in the gravinertial field. In a subsequent analysis to high precision, the Nordtvedt effect has been ruled out using this approach.[65][66] However, White uses MHD plasma rules to quantify this local momentum interaction where in comparison Woodward applies condensed matter physics.[55]

Based on the White conjecture the proposed theoretical device is called a Quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT) or Q-thruster. No experiments have been performed to date. Unlike a Mach effect thruster instantaneously exchanging momentum with the distant cosmic matter through the advanced/retarded waves (Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory) of the radiative gravinertial field, Sonny's "Q-thruster" would appear to violate momentum conservation, for the thrust would be produced by pushing off virtual "Q" particle/antiparticle pairs that would annihilate after they have been pushed on. However, it would not necessarily violate the law of conservation of energy, as it requires an electric current to function, much like any "standard" MHD thruster, and cannot produce more kinetic energy than its equivalent net energy input.

Media reaction[edit]

Woodward's claims in his papers and in space technology conference press releases of a potential breakthrough technology for spaceflight have generated interest in the popular press[5][68] and university news[69][70] as well as the space news media.[6][71][72] Woodward also gave a video interview[73] for the TV show Ancient Aliens, season 6, episode 12.[74] However doubters do exist[6] and the subject has been lampooned in a 2006 news comic strip.[75]

References[edit]

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Bibliography other works[edit]

  • "Interstellar propulsion: the quest for empty space".NASA
  • "Scaling Mach Effect Propulsion". nextbigfuture.com. 16 August 2012.
  • "Smokeless rockets launching soon?". CNET. 2006. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  • "US Patent #5,280,864 Method And Apparatus To Generate Thrust By Inertial Mass Variance". 25 January 1994. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  • "US Patent #6,347,766 "Method And Apparatus For Generating Propulsive Forces Without The Ejection Of Propellant" James Woodward and Thomas Mahood". Retrieved 23 December 2008.
  • "The Space Show: Dr. James Woodward". thespaceshow.com.

Further reading[edit]