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A British inventor has developed a prototype spacecraft engine which he claims could one day be used to create hover cars and aircraft without wings.
Roger Shawyer's pioneering electromagnetic drive, or "emdrive", uses microwaves to generate thrust and produces no pollutants, New Scientist reported.
The device was initially designed to replace the small thrusters satellites use to stay in orbit, which rely on a heavy fuel supply.
The emdrive would halve satellites' launch weight because it is powered only by microwaves generated from solar energy.
Mr Shawyer has already built a prototype emdrive capable of generating about 16 millinewtons of thrust using 1 kilowatt of electrical power.
He told New Scientist he hoped to see the engine tested in space within two years and estimated it could save the space industry $15 billion over the next decade.
The engineer next wants to create a thruster powerful enough to replace the combustion engine.
Mr Shawyer said a hover car with an emdrive cooled and powered by liquid hydrogen could end the world's dependence on petrol.
He added: "You need something different to persuade people to make the switch. Perhaps being able to move in three dimensions rather than two would do the trick."
Mr Shawyer was previously a senior aerospace engineer at Matra Marconi Space and worked on the EU's Galileo satellite navigation system. His research is supported by £250,000 of Department of Trade and Industry funding.
Shawyer cautions that the calculations only work for static thrusts. ‘You can’t beat the laws of physics. If it is used to accelerate, the Q value drops. It is best used to lift a body and oppose a force, for instance to counteract gravity. It cannot be used to accelerate further.’