Mach Effect Thruster Xperiments

Building a Mach Effect Thruster (propellantless) based on Jim Woodward´s ideas -but going a different path

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Wikipedia quote:
The Woodward effect, also referred to as a Mach effect, is part of a hypothesis proposed by James F. Woodward in 1990.[1] The hypothesis states that transient mass fluctuations arise in any object that absorbs internal energy while undergoing a proper acceleration. Harnessing this effect could generate a reactionless 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.
NASA is now officially funding Woodward´s work - and measurements show positive results.

i will follow an idea Woodward abandoned - because it seemed technically critical - but I think I found a solution to continue experimenting in this area by exploiting existing technologies (and therefore affordable parts) in the ultrasonic sector.

(Project team is already complete, please no inquiries)

The idea of a Mach Effect Thruster is to use a relativistic effect to generate directional forces with the help of the action at a distance with the mass of the entire universe. Sounds esoteric, but math says it works, and NASA is funding it due to positive experiments.

Basic function (simple explanation):

If you charge a capacitor and accelerate it at the same time, its rest mass increases.

If you discharge it, it decreases.

You can push the capacitor when it´s "heavier" and pull it when it´s "lighter". It will result in a directional force. Conservation of momentum is not broken, because the inertia is meant to be a relativistic effect depending on the rest mass of the entire universe and the momentum is exchanged with this mass (the reason it´s called "MEGA" drive - Mach Effect Gravitaional Assist)

If you never heard about this thruster, you need to check out Wikipedia first before following my details:
The Mach Effect thruster has been undergone several generations of heavy mutations during Woodward´s many years of research. The latest version is a PZT-only thruster, basically consisting of PZT disks and different solid blocks of aluminum and brass which are clamped together.

There was an early build where a PZT stack was shaking a capacitor directly - but it was discarded, because it seemed difficult to shake the cap with a controlled phase relation and a sufficient amplitude.

However, PZTs usually cannot be driven with high voltages (more few hundred volts) , but the Mach Effect forces seem to grow at square to the voltage. The PZT can be only run for a few seconds before getting very hot, so until now, the setups have been only made for a proof of the Mach Effect, not for a long duration firing thruster.
My approach uses a high voltage transformer to charge/discharge the cap and a tuned ultrasonic system to shake the cap.
First experiments have been done - new ideas and experiments are coming.

First tests have been driven with naive PZT/Cap combinations. The driver electronic had to be tested for hard vacuum conditions for upcoming tests.

Here´s the system design:

The power frequency of the capacitor is twice the frequency of the acceleration, so if you drive the transducer, you need to divide the frequency by two for driving the cap voltage. The phase has to be shifted to match the real world conditions. Phase shift occurs in the ultrasonic trasnmission of vibration to the cap, there are delays in the optocoupler which syncs the action of the transducer to the cap driver.

The challenge will be to make the cap shaking with a high amplitude. Due to the high sound frequency, it is not easy to achieve this.
I will use existing technologies used in ultrasonic welding to achieve this task.

Probably I will also mill and turn the acoustic parts by myself and document them on video.

BTW: Dresden University is developing their own thrusters - and I am thankful and proud to get support from them. In case I get the permission to do so, I will post material of real tests made on scale in hard vacuum with 20nN resolution.

There are several patents owned by Woodward regarding this technology.

Let´s make this dream of real space travel become true.


Currently (after the pre-tests) I am updating the electronics for the vacuum tests. We will be able to measure the amplitude of the shaken cap in realtime with a 200kHz sub-nanometer interferometer.
Meanwhile I am preparing a PZT/Cap combination optimized for a high amplitude, and I am eliminating some thermal issues which the pre-test revealed.
The main issue is: The intermediate circuit for providing the voltage to the ultrasonic driver is underdimensioned and gets too hot, electrolytic capacitors need to be either replaced or secured against bursting in vacuum.
Thermometers have to be installed on all critical systems.

  • Tests continue

    Paul Kocyla11/03/2017 at 14:15 0 comments

    After further tests, the champaign must wait:

    When the actuator is cold, a strong immidiate force appears after power up - without the capacitor beeing powered.

    When it´s warmed up, this imidiate force is not there, just the slowly rising force like in the pictures. I can´t tell where this strong froce is coming from, maybe an inrush shock on powerup?

    The funny thing is that it stays as long as the power is on. On power-down it releases quickly to the previous value.

  • Tests

    Paul Kocyla11/01/2017 at 18:43 0 comments

    The test setup for the Kocylator-Engine (Woodward thruster) is ready:

    It is a balance scale, capable of measuring with a resolution of 0.0001 grams - theoretically. It´s oscillating around +/- 5mg, but the oscillation is slower than the immidiate forces I measured.
    The counterweight is a beer can, filled with scrap metal from the garage. The red box on the left side is used to fine tune the counterweight, because the scale can only handle 50 grams.
    I made first tests and measured 10 milligram-force ten times in a row. It´s repeatable and stable.
    However, I must test the source of the force.
    The force appears immidiately (pointing downward) after the power is switched on, but after a few seconds the force is going upward. When I switch off the cap-HV-oscillator and power only the actuator, the downward force disappears and only the upward force is clearly visible. It´s coming up slowly and decaying slowly after power down, so it´s most certainly coming from the actuator which is heating up.
    Further tests will include: Powering only the cap-HV and see if the immidiate downward force arises. If yes, it must be parasitic. If no, hurray. Then I´ll check the forces for different phase angles.

    If the results show positive, I´ll ask for a test in Dresden in high vacuum and on a nanonewton sensitive scale.

    Here are some graphs of the first tests.

    The number seconds on the time axis has to be divided by 5 to get the correct time, because I increased the number of measuring points and didn´t apply the change to the time axis.

    Here are the graphs. Where the indigo line goes bright, the power has been switched on. A downward force appears immediately, then an upward force slowly rises:

    Here are the forces without the cap-HV. Clearly a temperature based force, slowly rising and decaying. This is most certainly the reason why the downward force only appears for a short time.

  • Hardware overview

    Paul Kocyla08/04/2017 at 17:19 2 comments

    Here´s the overview of the hardware modules. It´s very straightforward and exchangeable.
    The inverter in version 1.0 was underdimensioned and got hot. The new inverter is doing the job much better. For the vacuum tests, I heatsinked the inverter mosfets directly to the chassis. There is also an additional heatsink thermally bonded to the inverter transformer core which will sink the heat to the chassis. Electrolytic caps are potted in epoxy to avoid eventual burst inside the vacuum chamber.

  • New engine structure

    Paul Kocyla08/01/2017 at 17:59 0 comments

    The #Kocylator engine is beeing improved: On the right side you see the new engine structure. It is an ultrasonic transducer with a resonant booster (embedded in the POM block).
    The booster increases the amplitude of the ultrasonic wave and also serves as mechannical support.
    The driving circuit has also been improved, because the power inverter was underdimensioned and got too hot. The new one doesn´t even get warm. There is a BNC connector on the driver board now which allows to monitor the current through the transducer. It´s resonating at about 37kHz.

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Enjoy this project?



louis wrote 07/24/2022 at 15:36 point

I've been working with ultrasonic transducers for many years. I've developed ultrasonic generators, also. I'd recommend stacking the PZT transducer wafers to increase power output and voltage tolerances. It's exciting technology with many capabilities!

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Peter McCloud wrote 07/20/2017 at 18:44 point

I'm glad to see a MEGA drive on Hackaday! Looking forward to whatever you're able to share.

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