Since we seem to be on the topic of fantastical power sources today, it's my solemn duty to inform you that respected aeroplane manufacturer Boeing has aspirations to build a jet engine powered by lasers and nuclear explosions.
At least, that's what Boeing's recently approved patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office would suggest.
Modern aircraft such as the Boeing Dreamliner are powered by turbofan engines, which use a series of fans and turbines to compress air and ignite fuel. The newly proposed engine — which at the moment lives only in patent documents — would work pretty differently, using high-powered laser beams to vaporise nuclear material within a thruster, causing nuclear fusion reactions. The high-energy neutrons released by these small explosions would propel the aircraft forward, while the excess heat would be harnessed to power a turbine to recharge the laser system — in essence creating a self-powered engine.
In the future, Boeing hopes the new design may be used to power rockets, missiles, and spacecraft. If we really can't have warp drive (still an open question!), it's comforting to know that our rocket scientists are busy cooking up other awesomely science fictional propulsion systems.
Top image via YouTube / Patent Yogi