US Navy bosses have revealed futuristic plans to beam power from space.
They believe large arrays of space solar modules could send solar power to Earth.
The radical scheme could be used to power military installations and even cities.
Dr. Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, has built and tested two types of module to capture and transmit solar power.
The scheme uses a ‘sandwich’ module, which packs all the electrical components between two square panels.
The top side is a photovoltaic panel that absorbs the Sun’s rays.
An electronics system in the middle converts the energy to a radio frequency, and the bottom is an antenna that transfers the power toward a target on the ground.
The modules would be assembled in space by robots to form a one kilometer, very powerful satellite.
A second design, a ‘step’ module, modifies the sandwich design by opening it up, which allows it to receive more sunlight without overheating, thereby making it more efficient.
Even the Navy admits the plan sounds like a sci-fi plot.
‘It’s hard to tell if it’s nuts until you’ve actually tried,’ he said.
‘Launching mass into space is very expensive,’ says Jaffe, so finding a way to keep the components light is an essential part of his design.
His sandwich module is four times more efficient than anything made previously.
He also has a novel approach to solving the thermal problem, using the ‘step’ module.
The step module design, now in the patent process, opens up the sandwich to look more like a zig-zag.
This allows heat to radiate more efficiently, so the module can receive greater concentrations of sunlight without overheating.
Compared to sandwich modules built previously for space solar power, Dr. Paul Jaffe says NRL’s was “more than four times as efficient.
‘One of our key, unprecedented contributions has been testing under space-like conditions,’ said Jaffe.