While these results are intriguing, they are in no way definitive proof that warp drive could work, White said. The scaled-down experiments are just a first step toward understanding if these concepts can be taken out of the realm of theory and applied practically.
Quantum Thrust Through Space-Time Quantum-thruster physics, another technology White is looking into at NASA, could be the key to creating the fuel needed for a warp drive.
These electric "q-thrusters" work as a submarine does underwater, except they're in the vacuum of space, White told the crowd at the Starship Congress on Aug. 17. The spacecraft is theoretically propelled through space by stirring up the cosmic soup, causing quantum-level perturbations. The resulting thrust is similar to that created by a submersible moving through water.
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The technology produces negative vacuum energy, a key ingredient for an exotic-matter-powered warp-drive engine.
"The physics models that tell us how to construct a q-thruster are the same models we'll use to generate, design and build a negative vacuum generator," White said. "The quantum thrusters might be a propulsion manifestation of the physics, like the big ring around the spacecraft. If you looked in there, there might be 10,000 of these little cans that are the negative vacuum generators."