Awesome Teenager Invents A New Form Of Quantum Space Travel

Precocious young physicist Aisha Mustafa just patented a new system that could propel spacecrafts to the final frontier without using a drop of fuel.

In short her system taps one of the odder facets of quantum theory, which posits that space isn't really a vacuum. It's really filled with particles and anti-particles that exist for infinitesimally small periods of time before destroying each other. Mustafa thinks she can harness them to create propulsion, resulting in space craft that need little-to-no fuel to manoeuvre around in space. Fast Company reports:

Mustafa invented a way of tapping this quantum effect via what's known as the dynamic Casimir effect. This uses a "moving mirror" cavity, where two very reflective very flat plates are held close together, and then moved slightly to interact with the quantum particle sea. It's horribly technical, but the end result is that Mustafa's use of shaped silicon plates similar to those used in solar power cells results in a net force being delivered. A force, of course, means a push or a pull and in space this equates to a drive or engine.

Propulsion in space is incredibly easy to achieve because there aren't any particles to get in the way, but until now we've been completely reliant on engines to do the work. Engines create propulsion by burning chemical fuels — these fuels are heavy and expensive, making some of the crazy exploration we'd like to do impossible. Mustafa's system could let the laws physics do the heavy-lifting instead.

Of course, Mustafa needs to work on the design much more and figure out how to get funding for the ambitious adventure. We hope some organisation with deep pockets steps up because the science is remarkable. [ via Fast Company]

Image Credit: Jezper/Shutterstock


    Patented in Egypt. There's way too much prior art everywhere else for this to be patentable.

    She's 19, so not really what you'd normally think of as a "teenager" though that's technically true; studying at university, while this article makes it sound a bit like she's a precocious high schooler.
    I hope she gets a place offered at somewhere like MIT in the US to do post grad work on the subject and perhaps they can eventually test it at NASA.

    Sounds similar how to planet express ship moves in the cartoon futurama

      no no, the Planet Express ship doesn't move around in space but rather Space moves around it.

    Mufasa, that evil bastard!

    Did she actually build a working prototype or did she just posit something.

    At any rate AFAIK there's no such thing as an international patent. So patented in Egypt means we're free to use anywhere that isn't Egypt.

      even if it was patented internationally, that doesn't stop you making it in space :P

    Generally free to use regardless of patents....
    (no patent can stop someone experimenting in their shed.)
    Just not free to commercialise...

    So how do you get out of our atmosphere without heavy fuels?

      Well unfortunately you're still havin to duke it out with Gravity - so the current best options are...

      1 - Cheaper fuels/effecient rockets - Unlikely as we're already pretty efficient with our rockets, unfortunately it still makes them expensive to build and worse to run.
      2 - Take gravity out of the equation - which is one facet of the search for the Higgs Boson - but also unlikely as ven if they find it there are no guarantees of being able to use it to produce what is in effect anti-gravity.
      3 - Create a space elevator - Currently in work across the globe and most likely will utilise carbon nanotube thread which is currently too hard to manufacture en masse. Give it time though and this is the most likely way we'll get out of our gravity well before travelling off into the cosmos.

        Space elevator FTW! Good ol' Arthur C... =)

    Thankfully there are rocket boosters which can already duke it out with gravity so getting into space isnt the issue...

    I still prefer the idea of a solar kite. That idea at least has a little more than just theory to back it up.

    This article is asinine and insulting. The Casimir effect does not extract any energy from the ZPF: it uses human-provided energy (the placement of the mirror surfaces) and the ZPF (the differences between one infinity and a greater infini
    ty) to perform work (moving the mirror surfaces together). At no time is energy from the ZPF extracted: forces are static--- they are used to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

    Nor can the ZPF be used to propel a space craft: one needs a propellent, such as water or gas or metallic such as mercury or lead.

    Furthermore, virtual particles remain virtual up to the point that an external energy source is applied.

    The claims made in the article are just.... stupid, idiotic, insulting, and wrong.

      And you are clearly no expert in this field, using pop science terms such as ZPF. I can absolutely guarantee that NASA are working on a similar project.

      It's a con job and quackery. Also, there seems to be some evidence that this person doesn't even exist.

    Good grief. The Casimir effect is well known, it does not behave the way the woman thinks it does, the patent is worthless and would have been rejected were it submitted to patent offices in civilized countries which actually look at the legitimacy of the claims being made. Looks like Egypt lets any uneducated person file patents on anything so long as they come up with the patent fees. Amazing.

      Would you like to qualify that critique Fredric or are you as ignorant as you believe she is?

        He is pure ignorance. Just another armchair physicist, who hasn't even been to college or university.

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