China shows off magnetic propulsion engine for ultra silent subs, ships

The Ministry of National Defense of the People’s
Republic of China this week reported the first successful test of a magnetohydrodynamic drive
that could let ships and submarines sneak around almost totally silently. The system, built by the imaginatively named
state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, was apparently fired up for its first test
on a naval vessel at 11am on October 18, and the vessel reached “the designated speed”
for the tests. Magnetohydrodynamic drives aren’t new: they
have been tested for decades, but were largely abandoned for being too slow and power hungry. The devices work by electrifying water and
then using powerful magnetic fields to propel themselves. In 1992, the Japanese built a working magnetohydrodynamic
drive into a test ship, the Yamato 1, however, it was judged too inefficient to be practical. The ship used liquid helium-cooled superconductors
to get up to speeds of 15KPH (9MPH) and later prototypes couldn’t beat that speed. Because no moving parts are involved, the
system is pretty much silent running but for the sound of water. As a result, it could be perfect for stealthy
submarines or naval ships doing secretive work. The Chinese government claims the hardware
has already been patented and further testing will be carried out before it is deployed. If this is all true, the drive will be sad
news for the US Navy, which for years has been claiming superiority in silent submarine
technology. A practical magnetohydrodynamic drive from
the Chinese could change all that. So, what’s next? Fleets of sonar drones hunting for… Here’s a video of the science in action

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