An Egyptain teenager has patented a next-generation propulsion system that could send spacecraft to other solar systems—without using a single drop of fuel. While it is not quite warp-drive technology, young physicist Aisha Mustafa’s system is based on quantum physics and could see mankind boldly go where no man has gone before.
The 19-year-old is further proof that young minds produce fresh new ideas. Her propulsion system gets rid of traditional rocket boosters in favor of a more futuristic concept. For those of you who aren’t up to scratch on quantum physics, Mustafa’s idea works on the principle that space is not a vacuum. Instead, it is filled with a roiling sea of particles and anti-matter particles that are created and then destroy themselves in a blink of an eye.
Mustafa believes that this quantum effect can be harnessed via the dynamic Casimir effect. This utilizes a “moving mirror” cavity, where two reflective flat plates are held close together and then manipulated in order to interact with the quantum particles. By moving the plates (which are made of silicon), energy is created out of nothing and a net force is created which would be used to push, pull or propel a spacecraft.
In terms of energy usage, it is most like solar power in how the energy is used, and is much more efficient than the rocket fuel that is currently used to power spacecrafts. Current rockets, like the Dragon X, are tricky to control due to the energetic thrusters, and even NASA’s futuristic proposals such as ion drives still need power—even the USS Enterprise needed dilithium crystals. That is what makes young Mustafa’s system all the more amazing, it doesn’t need fuel and provides astronauts with much greater control of their spacecraft. It would also transform how satellites are controlled, allowing for simpler, cheaper and more reliable missions.
I would not be surprised to see more of Aisha Mustafa in the near future. Sohag University has already aided her with the patent application and she has already said she intends to keep developing the system before it is tested in outer space. Of course, as Egypt doesn’t exactly have a space agency, she may have to move abroad to see her dream become a reality.
Lead image: © 20th Century Fox/Prometheus