European aerospace giant Airbus has demonstrated how solar power can be transmitted from space in a new experiment.
So far, the wireless transmission system has only covered just over 30 meters (100 feet), but engineers are confident they can increase its range to reach outer space in the next decade.
The demonstration, which took place at Airbus’ X-Works innovation factory in Germany in September, saw electrical energy transmitted from a photovoltaic panel in the form of microwaves to a receiver about 118 feet away. (36m). The radiated energy lit up a model city and powered a hydrogen generator and a refrigerator containing non-alcoholic beer that the public later enjoyed.
Although it may seem like a long way to go from 118 feet to Earthin Airbus orbit, Airbus engineers believe that “the first operational Power Beaming prototypes could be used” in the early 2030s.
Related: A solar power plant in space? The UK wants to build one by 2035.
“Now that we have successfully tested the key building blocks of a future small-scale space solar power system for the first time, we are now ready to take the energy beam to the next level,” said Yoann Thueux. , the Airbus research project manager. , said in a statement.
Airbus will likely first attempt to transmit solar power from an aerial platform before aiming for space. At the end of the day, solar energy harvested in space and teleported to planes could revolutionize aviation, the company thinks. Flying planes could also serve as mobile nodes transmitting power wherever it might be needed on Earth.
“It could actually be a game-changer for airplanes, with the potential to extend range, reduce weight, but also relay power to other places, managing energy like data,” said said Jean-Dominique Coste, senior executive at Airbus. The Blue Sky department, which develops innovative technologies, specifies the press release.
Space-based solar power could also help wean the world off fossil fuels and contribute to a carbon-free future, in line with calls from the international climate science community. Scientists believe that to prevent the planet from warming by an average of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the global economy would need to be fully decarbonized by 2050. However, this goal is not still not within reach, according to a recent United Nations Climate Change Report.
“Power transmission technologies would enable the creation of new energy networks in the sky and could help solve the energy problem,” Coste said. “They would allow countries to fully control and distribute their energy where they need it, independently.”
Solar power generation is much more efficient in space than on Earth’s surface, where clouds and the day-night cycle prevent maximum illumination from being achieved. In fact, solar radiation is 50% more intense in space, where no air opposes the rays. However, the technology is not without drawbacks.
“If satellites were to capture sunlight, they would have to be about 2 kilometers [1.2 miles] through to achieve the same level of power as a nuclear plant,” Thueux said.
And nothing this size has ever flown in space. The largest space structure ever assembled in orbit is the international space stationroughly the size of a football field.
Coste said the microwave beams that carry harvested solar energy “can be engineered to prevent damage” to technology as well as living creatures. He sees further advantages of the system in its ability to distribute electricity around the world without the need for additional ground infrastructure.
“There is no need for complex and expensive terrestrial infrastructure, power plants, pipelines or cables, for example, to distribute electricity on Earth,” Coste said. “That too is done by transmission of power.”
The system would be no more expensive than conventional ground-based power generation infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants or large-scale solar or wind farms, according to Airbus.
Considered until recently the domain of science fiction, space solar energy has gained prominence in recent times with the launch by the world’s major space agencies development projects and feasibility studies this could lead to the flight of the first space energy harvesters within the next decade.
Space agencies admit that advances in several fields, including robotics and in-orbit manufacturingwould be needed to realize the visions of space solar power.
Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
#Spacebased #solar #power #work #experiments #show