Science & Technology

A revolution in energy, aviation and ecology. A simple experiment showed that the future may well be in the transfer of energy from space

Everyone is concerned about the most efficient way of obtaining cheap and environmentally friendly energy. Instead of endlessly trying to create an “artificial Sun” on Earth, it would be nice to use the energy of the one that we already have more efficiently. There are several problems here.

First, a smaller part of solar energy reaches the Earth’s surface. Second, solar panel efficiency is stuck at just over 39%. And thirdly, even if we mark a huge solar farm in orbit today, we will not be able to transfer the accumulated energy to the planet.

Or can we?

European aerospace giant Airbus has demonstrated the first experimental prototype of its space-based power transmission system. 

In the demonstration, which took place at the innovative Airbus X-Works plant in Germany, energy was transmitted from a photovoltaic panel in the form of microwaves to a receiver located at a distance of about 36 m.

To make a show out of the demonstration, the radiated energy lit up the model city, as well as powering a hydrogen generator and a refrigerator filled with non-alcoholic beer, which was later enjoyed by the audience.

From 36 meters to 360 kilometers

Yes, the path to Earth orbit may seem long, but Airbus engineers believe that “the first space-based prototypes could be launched by the early 2030s.”

Most likely, the next step will be an attempt to transfer energy from some kind of air platform, and then from space.

What about the revolution in aviation, energy and ecology?

The company believes that the first thing the technology being developed will make it possible to do just that. It’s about “powering” the planes from space power plants, which will allow “to completely change the rules of the game”, reducing the mass and increasing the flight range.

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Among other things, aircraft will be able to serve as a kind of flying energy storage, which they will provide where it is required. In general, it sounds futuristic, but it is quite believable in such a technology development.

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Such energy networks in the sky will allow countries to fully control and distribute their energy where it is needed and in the way that a particular situation requires.

Restoration of ecology

Climate issues were were not forgotten at the presentation, explaining that the development of technologies for transmitting energy from space could well make it possible to achieve decarburization goals by 2050. 

Airbus believes that this system will certainly won’t be more expensive than conventional ground-based power generation infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants or large-scale solar or wind farms.

More recently, space solar energy was, in general, the lot of science fiction, but recently it has become more and more the shape of something real.

Leading space agencies around the world are launching similar projects. At the same time, experts recognize that turning the ideas of space solar energy into reality will require advances in several areas, including robotics and in-orbit manufacturing, where additive technologies, will definitely become the basis.

Do you think we will soon see the first prototypes of solar power plants transmitting energy to Earth?

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