Advances in the field of solar power constantly emerge, making it sometimes quite difficult to keep track on, let’s say, the latest improvement in solar cells efficiency. But just when we thought that we have seen it all, and it is unlikely that anyone could surprise us with something truly revolutionary, the guys from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) do it, and they do it with a bang. Their latest development is a module that can not only capture space solar power, but also transmit it to Earth, potentially providing solar energy even during the gloomiest of days.
The creator of the technology is Dr. Paul Jaffe, who is a space engineer at the NRL. Driven by the urge to find a way to supply cheap clean energy at virtually any place and time, Jaffe took on the task to turn a crazy idea into a practical and very competitive solution to one of the most pressing problems that the U.S. military faces almost every day.
The aim of the developer is to have a module in space, which can transfer concentrated beam of energy to the Earth surface through the atmosphere. This would be possible by sending the power in the form of radiofrequency or microwaves, just like a radio or TV signal. In this way, energy will be provided to any remote place regardless of weather conditions, and the amount and location will be specified by the receiver placed on the ground.
Jaffe developed two versions of the module, one that has a photovoltaic panel to capture the sun rays, and technology that converts them into radio-frequency, and the other version equipped with an antenna to beam the power. Both have already been tested in a specially designed vacuum chamber, producing incredible and very unexpected at first results.
The module proved to be four times more efficient than any similar technology ever developed before. By testing it under space-like conditions, a luxury that NRL provided to the engineer, the findings were proven extremely trustworthy.
The technology, if commercialized, would be the first of its kind. Of course, besides solar power, the module has other applications, including space radar and thermal management architecture. Let’s see if the development will attract interest and further investments, but the way it is looking now, it definitely holds a promise.
Image (c) NRL