black hole warp drive

“Black Hole” Created Using Sound Waves Could Help Enable the Development of a Physical Warp Drive

An artificial black hole produced using sound waves and a dielectric medium has been created in the lab, according to researchers with an international think tank featuring more than 30 Ph.D. research scientists from around the world.

The researchers say their discovery is significantly more cost-effective and efficient than current methods in use by researchers who want to simulate the effects of a black hole in a laboratory environment.

New York-based Applied Physics first achieved recognition with the 2021 publication of a peer-reviewed theoretical paper detailing the mathematics behind the construction of a physical warp drive. More recently, the organization published a method for using Cal Tech’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to detect the use of warp drives in outer space, co-authored by Dr. Manfred Paulini, the Associate Dean of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University.

Now, the group says their peers working in the field warp field mechanics have a tool that didn’t exist previously or was simply too expensive and impractical to utilize. Their findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Universe, are setting the pace for a small but growing community of researchers hoping to explore the mechanics of gravity and bring about humanity’s first real warp-drive spacecraft.

Sound Waves and Glycerin Proved to be the Key Ingredients

To create their simulated black hole, the paper’s lead author, Dr. Edward Rietman, and his co-author, Dr. Brandon Melcher, filled a chamber with an everyday, non-toxic liquid. “The dielectric medium used was glycerin,” explained Rietman in an exclusive email to The Debrief. “It has the nice property of being optically transparent and dense, and its normal refractive index is 1.4768.”

Next, the researchers bombarded the dielectric medium with targeted sound waves. Once the waves were tuned correctly, Rietman and Melcher employed a Thorlabs FS30SMA-1550 fiber collimator to send the light into a Thorlabs CSS 100 series spectrometer, which confirmed the bending of light, exactly like a real black hole in space.

“The team induced a black hole by modulating acoustic waves in a dense fluid, building on recent research that explores the use of high-frequency acoustic waves for analog simulations of gravity and general relativity in the laboratory,” the Applied Physics team told The Debrief. “The acoustic waves alter the medium through which they travel, deflecting laser light in the lab similarly to how the gravitational pull of black holes bends the light of distant stars behind them.”

In other words, sound waves were focused into a thick fluid, causing light to bend around like they were close to a black hole. “This discovery provides a novel method to gain insight into the physics of black holes, all within the safety of a laboratory,” the team explained.

Also significant, the team says that their measurements of the degree to which bent light the artificial black hole bent light jibe perfectly with the real thing. “We show the calculations comparing our results with the Schwarzschild metric (in our paper),” Rietman told The Debrief.

“Cheaper, Better, Faster” Black Hole Opens up Gravity Research to Everyone

While simulated black holes are currently used in labs to explore a wide range of phenomena, the team at Applied Physics says their particular black hole is more accessible to operate than the alternatives and is markedly less expensive. This cost-benefit, they note, will allow the small but growing community of physicists and engineers trying to advance science toward the construction of a real warp drive to afford a highly-specialized tool that is critical to their work.

“A Bose-Einstein condensate requires liquid He (helium) temperatures plus a room full of costly equipment (that can total) over $1 million,” Gianni Martire, founder of Applied Physics, explained in a message to The Debrief, “whereas our system is truly benchtop, with total costs around $10k.”

“We couldn’t afford $1 million,” added Martire,” so we invented a cheaper, better, faster way simply out of need.”

Artificial Black Hole Could Enable Development of a Real World Warp Drive Spacecraft

The researchers behind the artificial black hole caution that the first flight of a working warp drive spacecraft could still be decades away, or that such technology may simply be too complex to ever really come to fruition. However, they reiterate that their solution provides a new tool to like-minded researchers who are banking on the possibility that making warp drive a reality can be achieved.

“Nobody has used glycerin to create a black hole system in the lab,” Melcher told The Debrief. “We view this advance as offering another tool to analog system researchers. We view the pressure variations in glycerin as fertile soil for more complicated space/time possibilities.”

“We’re here to scale science,” the physicist added, “not conjecture, so measuring is important.”

When asked how their work can help facilitate advancements toward a working warp drive, Rietman was notably cautious, though still optimistic.

“This discovery demonstrates the exciting potential of analog systems for studying astrophysical and cosmological phenomena in the laboratory,” he told The Debrief. “With this innovation, we can better understand the effects of curved space/time and advance the future of warp drive research.”

“It is too early to answer clearly [how this will lead to a warp drive] as we need to publish more papers on work we’ve done,” he later added. “Science and technology advance one step at a time, so we can say it will, but going into the details is a deep science hole that will take away focus. We need this to measure and prove theories in warp [mechanics]. That’s the simple way to say it.”

Ultimately, the Applied Physics research team says their new tool is sorely needed by researchers like themselves who hope to advance humanity’s understanding of gravity. But they also point out that the top benefit of their new laboratory-created black hole may be its safety since creating an actual black hole here on earth could have catastrophic consequences.

“Just don’t leave your black hole unattended,” Martire joked before adding, “We should probably make that into a sign.”

Christopher Plain is a novelist, comedian, and Head Science Writer at The Debrief. Follow and connect with him on Twitter, learn about his books at, or email him directly at