Scientists Discover a New Way to Harness the Sun for a Clean Energy Future. It has been revealed that the European Space Agency (ESA) is considering proposals to build an orbiting solar farm.
Most of Earth’s antennas would take up the beams and transform the energy into electricity.
Tim Jones says the SOLARIS project “aims to collect sunlight over a large area in orbit, convert it into microwave energy (similar to high-frequency radio waves in a microwave oven), and then transmit it to Earth.”
Scientists anticipate that the Earth’s enormous number of antennas will take up the beams and transform the energy into power.
According to research commissioned by the UK government by consultants Frazer-Nash, an “operational system could be constructed by 2040 and it could produce a large percentage of the UK’s energy demands by the early 2040s.”
“This must be a collaborative (public and private) endeavor,” says Mamatha Maheshwarappa, payload systems head at the UK Space Agency. The government can fund part of the initial de-risking initiatives, but it will later require private investment.”
While scientists are aware that significant amounts of energy may be wasted throughout the conversion and beaming processes, they believe it would be economically viable even if only 10% of the energy reached Earth.
According to Airbus energy expert Jean-Dominique Coste, “If satellites were to collect sunlight, they would need to measure around 2 kilometers across to achieve the same power output as a nuclear power plant.”
Scientists at Berkeley Lab
Berkeley Lab scientists assisted in the discovery of a previously unknown charge-generating mechanism, which could lead to more effective methods of converting solar into energy.
Science has achieved significant improvements in photovoltaic technology, which turn sunlight into electricity, and artificial photosynthesis devices, which convert sunlight and water into carbon-free fuels over the last 50 years. However, the current state-of-the-art of these clean energy sources does not compete with electricity or transportation fuel sourced from petroleum.
Researchers from Berkeley Lab, DESY, the European XFEL, and the Technical University Freiberg in Germany have discovered a hidden charge-generating pathway in Nature Communications, which could help researchers develop more efficient ways to convert sunlight into electricity or solar fuels like hydrogen.
The researchers used DESY’s FLASH free-electron laser to shine ultrashort infrared and X-ray laser flashes on a copper-phthalocyanine: fullerene (CuPc: C60) material to examine charge creation mechanisms with a time resolution of 290 femtoseconds (290 quadrillionths of a second).
Using ultrashort pulses of light in conjunction with a technique known as time-resolved X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (TRXPS), the researchers were able to observe and count in real-time how many of the infrared photons absorbed by CuPc: C60 formed useful separate charges and how many only heated the material.
According to Oliver Gessner, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and co-author of the current paper, their novel approach revealed an unknown mechanism in CuPc: C60 that converts up to 22% of absorbed infrared photons into distinct charges.