Wireless Energy breakthrough in Japan

Space
researchers have successfully transmitted power wirelessly with pinpoint
accuracy over a distance of 170 feet, the first step towards sending power generated
in space back to Earth. Japanese scientists have succeeded in transmitting
energy wirelessly, in a key step that could one day make solar power generation
in space a possibility, an official said Thursday.


Electricity
gained from solar panels in space could one day be beamed to earth (AFP)

Researchers
used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power ­ enough to run an electric
kettle ­ through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver 55 metres (170
feet) away. While the distance was not huge, the technology could pave the way
for mankind to eventually tap the vast amount of solar energy available in
space and use it here on Earth, a spokesman for The Japan Aerospace Exploration
Agency (JAXA) said.

“This
was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two
kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate
directivity control device,” he said. JAXA has been working on devising Space
Solar Power Systems for years, the spokesman said. Solar power generation in
space has many advantages over its Earth-based cousin, notably the permanent
availability of energy, regardless of weather or time of day.

While
man-made satellites, such as the International Space Station, have long since
been able to use the solar energy that washes over them from the sun, getting
that power down to Earth where people can use it has been the thing of science
fiction. But the Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one
day be able to farm an inexhaustible source of energy in space. The idea, said
the JAXA spokesman, would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites ­
which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae ­ to be set up about
36,000 kilometres (22,300 miles) from the earth.

“But
it could take decades before we see practical a
pplication of the technology ­
maybe in the 2040s or later,” he said. “There are a number of challenges to
overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them
and how to maintain them.” The idea of space-based solar power generation
emerged among US researchers in the 1960s and Japan’s SSPS programme, chiefly
financed by the industry ministry, started in 2009, he said.
Resource-poor
Japan has to import huge amounts of fossil fuel. It has become substantially
more dependent on these imports as its nuclear power industry shut down in the
aftermath of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011. (Source: AFP)

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