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A solar panel launched into space: send electricity to earth

 

Scientists working for the Pentagon have succeeded in testing a solar panel that can send electricity to any point on Earth from space.

Unveiled this morning by CNN, this system had been tested in May 2020 through a drone sent into the sky.


Today, its creators presented their ambition to turn it into a satellite capable of remotely supplying electricity to any point on the planet.

The idea behind this technology, named PRAM for Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module. It is to take advantage of the much stronger solar radiation in space, as it is not filtered by the atmosphere.

A SOLAR PANEL

In doing so, the solar panel of the small craft is able to store phenomenal energy and then redirect it as a "clean energy converted microwave beam" to a given location.



1. A scientifically operational technology

"The latest experiments show that the 30.5 x 30.5 centimeter panel is capable of producing about 10 watts of energy to be transmitted.

That's about enough to power a tablet," explained Paul Jaffe, the project leader at CNN. However, the final satellite is expected to have more than a dozen of these panels.

If it is not yet a question of powering a city, the idea is to be able to intervene in areas without electricity.. or even in disaster-stricken areas after a natural disaster for example, in order to support relief efforts.

But if in the future this project proves to be more ambitious, with much larger panels.

The researchers suggest the possibility of producing several Gigawatts, equivalent to what is produced by large modern power plants.

2. Nine meters long

A second experiment will look at the effects of ambient radiation in space on a series of seeds, she explained.

A third experiment developed by a U.S. Navy research laboratory "will transform solar radiation into radio-electric energy and study how to transfer that energy to Earth," added Barbara Barrett, who oversees the new U.S. Space Force.

3. An energy source that can be redirected to the Earth

While 10 watts may seem ridiculous, the future satellite should contain a dozen other panels that will be able to store energy.

That can be redirected to any corner of the globe, and easily transformed into electricity.

 And that's the main advantage of such a power source: "You can send energy to Chicago, and a fraction of a second later to London or Brasilia, if you need it," explains the scientist.

While the space solar panel is well capable of storing energy, its transmission to a specific location on Earth has yet to be studied. Objective: to direct it in the form of microwaves to a given location... without the risk of missing its target.

At the test stage, this technology could subsequently be very useful, particularly in the event of natural disasters, to immediately replace damaged infrastructures and continue to provide the affected populations with electricity.

Such a network could also distribute energy to the remotest parts of the world, even becoming the main supplier of electricity to an entire city.

4. How does the space solar panel work?

According to CNN, one side of the small satellite captures solar energy with a photovoltaic panel, then the electronics in the center.. convert this light into radio frequency signals. Meanwhile, the other side is equipped with an antenna that sends the energy back to our planet.

So far, the small solar panel has been able to produce 10 watts of energy, enough to power an iPad on Earth.

The advantages of installing solar panels in space are the permanent and powerful sunlight, the ability to capture the blue waves usually filtered out by the Earth's atmosphere.

Besides, the ability to direct the energy where it is most needed at any given time.

For example, if a natural disaster electrically isolates a city or population, it will be possible to provide them with electricity from space.

When it comes to solar energy on our planet, we know that Tesla's solar tiles would be arriving in Europe and Canada this year.

So if you are currently building your home and want to take advantage of the third generation of the cheaper and more efficient solar roof, this will soon be possible.

5. Ray of light, in moment when there is no light

According to CNN, a team of U.S. Army researchers successfully tested the technology in recent months. Last May, they sent a panel on the Pentagon's secret X-37B aircraft to test the technology.

Since the panel is in space and not here on Earth, nothing stands between it and the sun's rays. In other words, there is no atmosphere that hinders the entry of light or limits the incoming rays.

This is why the device can receive more light than it would receive here on Earth.

Also, it is not as affected by the efficiency degradation that occurs when solar panels are heated on Earth. As a result, efficiency records here are 47%.

So far, the device has been able to generate about 10 watts, which, although not much, is more than enough to demonstrate the panel's capabilities. The system is also scalable, much larger panels can be created to store more energy.

Now the next step is to send this captured energy to Earth and store it. This is a more complex process, although theoretically possible, according to researchers.

The idea would be to use a microwave and a millimetre-wave beam to send the energy back to Earth.

A receiver here on the surface would be responsible for capturing this beam of light and saving the energy sent. In other words, a laser that sends energy from a satellite back to Earth.

6. Energy everywhere

In the future, scientists plan to send dozens of panels into space that, when improved, "could revolutionize both the way energy is generated and distributed to the farthest corners of the Earth," writes CNN.

According to some projections by scientists, future panels could even "exceed the generating capacity of today's largest power plants.

The advantage of such a system is that it can provide power to any part of the world where there is a receiving antenna, and this is urgently needed.

Beyond that, researchers will now have to prove that sending energy back to Earth is feasible.


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