Aisha Mustafa, a 19-year-old Egyptian physics student, patented a new type of propulsion system for spacecraft that uses cutting edge quantum physics instead of thrusters. 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. 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.
Fast Company – Mustafa’s invention powers space vehicles by benefiting from the electric energy formed by Casimir-polder force which occurs between separate surfaces and objects in a vacuum and by the zero-point energy which is considered to be the lowest state of energy. Mustafa added that she used reflective panels for additional force which looks like photovoltaic solar cells. The invention is related to a hypothetical concept of a jet propulsion called “Differential Sail”, which was theoretically created by NASA’s retired professor Marc G. Millis who led NASA breakthrough propulsion physics project.
Aisha’s invention is so promising that her university’s staff aided with a patent application. She intends to study the design further in the hope of testing it out for real in space, but as the OnIslam.net site points out she notes that there’s no funding for a department of space science and this prevents important research being carried out in strife-ridden Egypt.