March 15, 2015
Japanese scientists have made a breakthrough: researchers with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have found a way to transmit energy wirelessly, a discovery that could completely change how energy is harvested in the future.
Scientists have long salivated at the idea of capturing solar energy in space, but had no way to do it until the researchers discovered they could use microwaves to deliver 10 kilowatts across a gap of 1,640 feet with pinpoint accuracy, according to a UPI report.
A small receiver captured the energy, which powered an LED light.
It wasn’t a big gap the energy traveled over, especially when you consider just how much space is between the surface of our planet and low-Earth orbit, and the energy transmitted wasn’t a lot — but it does show that it can be done.
Today, we depend on cables to conventionally transmit electricity from one place to another, but these new test results could mean big changes down the road for how energy is transmitted in the future, the company said in a press release.
MHI researchers are calling it “radio emission technology,” and it governs how a microwave beam is transmitted an aimed. The test occurred at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry helped fund the project.
It won’t happen overnight, but the technology could eventually allow mankind to harvest the immense amount of solar energy raining down on Earth from space. It’s also a renewable, never-ending source of energy that wouldn’t depend on the weather, unlike typical solar power harvesters here on Earth.
The International Space Station has long been able to collect solar energy from the sun, but it hasn’t been able to send that power down to Earth. This new technology could allow that to happen.
Eventually, researchers hope to set up solar-collecting panels and antennas about 22,300 miles above the Earth, according to a Discovery News report, although the report acknowledges that we may be decades from practical application of the technology.
Still, it could have major impacts — perhaps even when it comes to global warming, as it could greatly reduce mankind’s dependency on fossil fuels, which are pumping huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Don’t we already have a similar technology known as a laser? How is this different from a laser, which concentrates light & heat into a single beam and transmits that beam across space?
Transmitting energy from space in this manner seems dangerous. One would have to be very careful to make sure that no airplanes pass under this powerful stream of radiation, as it might damage the plane, cause it to go down, or microwave the passengers, giving them cancer or killing them on the spot. There would be no way of stopping birds from flying into the path of the strong microwave ray, so those birds would get totally fried or develop cancer. And of course one would need to make sure no people are able to get anywhere close to this powerful ray of energy. Lots of potential safety issues.
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