Chapter 5 - Gravitational Experiments with Superconductors: History and Lessons (Updated 2/10/2012)
Notes by David A Roffman on Chapter 5 of
FRONTIERS IN PROPULSION SCIENCE
Chapter by George D. Hathway, Director, Hathaway Consulting Service,
Toronton, Ontario, Canada
A superconductor is an object that has properties that allow for easy conduction of electricity, with virtually no resistance. The major development in this area was the development of a yttrium barium copper oxide (YBa2Cu3O7), often abbreviated as YBCO) ceramic superconductor. This material is important because it allowed for cheap liquid nitrogen to be used for a coolant, rather the more expensive liquid helium. Normally, superconductors work better at colder temperatures, requiring helium which boils at 4.2K. The YBCO works with liquid nitrogen, which boils at 77K. The whole goal of this chapter is to review the past, current, and future status of superconductors with respect to antigravity and propulsion.
It must be stressed that work in this area is very difficult, and susceptible to many errors, as the low temperatures and levels of accuracy are unforgiving. Carelessness on a scientist’s part can result in the scientific version of political suicide. We first must consider thermal effects that can cloud results. Temperature differences (including on the part of the scale apparatus, and air) can alter the recorded mass. Materials can condense onto the test mass, and thus alter the perceived test mass results. Buoyancy can also play a role in mass change due to gases in the sample test area. Vibrations can be detrimental too. With frozen over wires due to the cryogenic agent, the slightest shock from the outside could skew the already small mass change most likely to be observed. The cryogen itself can create little tremors that can impede result analysis.
Even with a vacuum, the results aren’t safe. Any residue gases can produce pressure gradients and become a problem. Free electrical charges can then propagate through the left over particles, and cause charge (electrical) gradients. Rogue magnetic fields and electrical fields (no matter how small) can further alter weight. Finally, if the scientist defies the odds of experimental error, then human error will mostly likely deny him or her fame. Bias error, or the will to want to see the hypothesis proven correct, can cause an individual to ignore negative results and only “see” what is wanted to be seen.
PODKLETNOV GRAVITY SHIELDING CLAIMS
Rather than discuss limited success, it is better to discuss alleged failure by the book’s least favorite scientist, Eugene Podkletnov. This man decided to run an antigravity experiment with a massive superconductor (YBCO) and with primitive failsafe systems for accuracy. He provided vague diagrams to how he performed his experiment, along with no precautions against the mentioned errors in the past few paragraphs. Since his procedure was so flawed, the results of 0.3% loss in mass he “discovered” were put down by Frontiers. They were tested in later experiments, but were never confirmed. However, those who tested the designs didn’t use as big a superconductor (less than half the size) and refused to use the required Liquid He with high frequency magnetic fields (no permanent magnets).
PODKLETNOV FORCE BEAM CLAIMS
Podkletnov also researched force beams. His idea here was to use discharges from a YBCO superconductor to move objects that were far away and separated by walls. A pencil that was standing upright on a table in an adjoining room fell over just as a blue planar discharge moved from the superconductor to the annulus. The review of the experiment is unfavorable because there was a lack of supporting evidence. This was a better apparatus than seen in the previous experiments.
GRAVITY WAVE TRANSDUCERS
The next experiment (not done by Podkletnov) is about gravitational wave thrusters. It was proposed to use superconductors as gravitational wave transducers for RF radiation. Chiao failed here. Harris then said that it was because that neither gravitoelectric nor gravitomagnetic fields accompany gravitational waves. Many others tried and failed here too.
In 2001 Tajmar and De Ma Matos showed that every electromagnetic field is linked to a gravitoelectric and gravitomagnetic field. They also said that the coupling is generally valid but it can be increased by using massive ion currents. This can be accomplished by rotating mass or a dense plasma and by aligning electron and nuclear spins. Thus any substance set in rotation becomes the seat of a uniform intrinsic gravitomagnetic field.
In a 1950 text on superfluids, London came up with an expression for the magnetic field produced by a spinning superconductor or superfluid. It was proportional to the Cooper pair mass to charge ratio and angular velocity. This London moment is used to determine the Cooper pair mass, which was predicted to be < twice the mass of an electron, but was actually slightly larger.
In 2003 Tajmar and De Matos found that a huge internal gravitomagnetic field was needed to explain the mass anomaly. It could be measured in a lab. The field was predicted to have form Bg = 2ωρ*/ρ with ρ* = Cooper pair mass density, ρ is the classical bulk mass density of the superconducting material, and ω is the superconductor’s rotational speed. In 2006 Tajmar did an experiment with mechanical spinning of niobium and high temperature ceramic superconductor rings at LHe (liquid helium) temperature. He did not apply an external magnetic field, and he used a sudden acceleration deceleration of the superconducting rings to produce the acceleration required to see the anticipated field. Note that moving charges create magnetic fields.
Tajmar thought he found the expected large gravitomagnetic field as detected by sensors like accelerometers and laser gyroscopes, but he backed off the claim in 2007. Still there was a residual signal with a large coupling constant of 10-8 between the observed acceleration effect and the applied angular velocity. It was proportional to temperature after passing a critical temperature that depended on the spinning ring. It was more pronounced in a clockwise direction as viewed from above. It did not decay as would a dipole field.
An experiment under different conditions at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand showed less impressive results, but did indicate a possible effect like Tajmar’s observations.
The search for frame dragging effects speculated by Tajmar and his team goes on, just like the research in the field of superconductors and gravity. It is important to note that not too many scientists are researching in this area, and that cooperation and coordination are needed.