Jap scientists beam electricity 55m to boil kettle

Demonstration paves way for limitless, space-sourced solar power project that could be running by 2040

If Japanese boffins are correct, we could be beaming solar power directly from space by 2040.
If Japanese boffins are correct, we could be beaming solar power directly from space by 2040.

Japanese scientists have transmitted electric power wirelessly to a target by using microwaves.

Scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have succeeded using microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power through the air to a pinpoint target 55 meters away, a spokesman for the agency said.

The power was enough to boil a kettle. While scientists say that may not seem impressive [it does to us], they claim it could pave the way for collecting an inexhaustible supply of solar energy from space and transmitting it to Earth. Doing so frees energy collection from the limits of weather and can be done regardless of the time of day.

JAXA has been working for years on the Space Solar Power Systems project (SSPS) which envisages a space-based solar power plant that generates energy by collecting sunlight in geostationary orbit.

“SSPS consists of a space-based power generation/transmission facility that gathers sunlight, converts it into microwaves or laser beams, and transmits those to the ground; and a power receiving facility on the ground,” said lead researcher Yasuyuki Fukumuro.

That technology doesn’t yet exist. The SSPS project envisages sending microwave energy from an orbit of around 36,000 km to a target area covering just three square kilometres – a task he says is like “threading a needle”. Nailing a kettle from just 55 metres is just the first step.

“There are many technological challenges to solve before SSPS can be implemented,” he said. “When transmitting power by microwaves, a significant technological challenge is how to control the direction, and transmit it with pinpoint accuracy from a geostationary orbit to a receiving site on the ground.”

 

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