Wireless Energy Transfer
Wireless energy transfer is not a new concept. Back in the 19th century Nikola Tesla has experimented wirelessly lighting lamps several kilometres away. However, due to several factors such as the dangerous nature of the experiments, low efficiency of power transfer and low funding, the experiments were abandoned and were never sought to be commercially exploited.
In the present, information travels on electromagnetic waves which are a form of energy, which means that in theory it is possible to transmit energy in a similar fashion. This can be done through the use of microwaves, a method which is highly efficient, despite having some disadvantages. For example, transferring energy through microwaves requires a line of sight, a clear line where there is no obstruction in between the two points of transmission. Furthermore, it is a harmful mechanism for living beings.
With this in mind,the wireless energy transfer through microwaves has turned into a viable option but it needs further technological development to overcome its downsides. This is important as the reliance on solar energy continues to grow on the planet. The possibility to transmit this energy anywhere on Earth or even more, to harness energy and transmit it from outer space would have huge benefits, both for the environment and the economy.
Solar Power in Space
Solar power research and development has seen significant breakthroughs in the past years. Scientists in Japan working for the “2012 Solar Power Wireless Transmission Technology Development Project” were recently successful in transmitting solar energy wirelessly. This is a big step for solar power and opens up the possibility of someday being able to send energy wirelessly across large distances and even to and from Space
The distance of energy transmission managed by the scientists was just 55 meters., However, this experiment holds great importance for the future development of this technology. The energy transfer was achieved by using microwaves to deliver through the air 1.8kW of power- enough power to run a small electronic device-. This technology is expected to help explore the huge amount of solar energy that is found in space, which could potentially present an inexhaustible renewable resource in the future.
Satellites have been collecting solar power from the sun for some time but the difficulty is transferring this energy to the Earth, due to the large distance that separates the two. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency or “JAXA” for short, has the goal of constructing microwave-transmitting solar satellites, which would contain technology such as sunlight-gathering panels and antennae, and would be set up about 36,000 kilometres from the Earth. The satellites would be able to wirelessly transmit the harnessed energy to collecting stations on Earth.
As dependency for solar power increases, this encourages the possibility for future development of technology that will permit energy to be transferred wirelessly across large distances. Thanks to the breakthrough made by the Japanese scientists, this vision is one step closer to becoming reality.