Artistic impression of different spacecraft designs considering theoretical shapes of different kinds of “warp bubbles.”
Credit: Erik Lentz

An astrophysicist reports he has discovered gaps in previous “warp drive” studies. The new research, if equations hold up, would allow space travel to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, and back to Earth in years instead of decades or millennia.

Erik Lentz at Göttingen University in Germany points to configurations of space-time curvature organized into “solitons” – a compact warp bubble wave that maintains its shape and moves at constant velocity.

In essence, according to Lentz, the new method uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel, which – unlike other research – would only need sources with positive energy densities. No “exotic” negative energy densities needed.

Image to show how long it would take different types of spacecraft to travel from our solar system to Proxima Centauri.
Credit: Erik Lentz

Lower the energy

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,” Lentz says in a university press statement. “The next step is to figure out how to bring down the astronomical amount of energy needed to within the range of today’s technologies, such as a large modern nuclear fission power plant. Then we can talk about building the first prototypes,” he adds.

Fortunately, several energy-saving mechanisms have been proposed in earlier research, Lentz points out, that can potentially lower the energy required by nearly 60 orders of magnitude.

Lentz is currently in the early-stages of determining if these methods can be modified, or if new mechanisms are needed to bring the energy required down to what is currently feasible.

To read the Lentz research paper in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity – “Breaking the warp barrier: hyper-fast solitons in Einstein–Maxwell-plasma theory” – go to:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6382/abe692