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New JAXA Technology Captures Solar Energy in Space
Instead of doing the old-fashioned solar power thing, and capturing the sun’s rays as they hit the Earth’s surface, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Osaka University Institute of Laser Engineering is bolding going where no space station has ever gone before – in terms of solar power. Pioneering scientists at Jaxa have found a way to harness solar power even closer to the source- from outer space! The Space Solar Power System (SSPS) technology would capture solar rays in space and transport the energy to be used here on the ground. A single unit placed in space would generate enough energy to power 500,000 homes!
Sound like a green version of Star Trek? It’s actually quite simple: the space solar ray capturing system consists of a solar power satellite (SPS) and ground facilities to exploit power from the SPS via laser beam. The SPS orbits the Earth and gathers solar energy; it is then transmitted to a terrestrial power station. The satellite would be launched into stationary orbit 22,400 miles above the equator that would collect solar energy and convert it to a laser beam and send it to the earth-based station.
Specialized plates mounted on the satellite would be made from a ceramic material containing chromium and neodymium- the former absorbs the sunlight and the latter translates sunlight to laser light with a very high efficiency. The new technology promises 42% solar-to-laser energy conversion efficiency.
The major advantage of this system is that it would use solar energy 24 hours a day, and would not depend only on sunny days as is the case with earth-based solar power systems. Testing would start this week, on February 20th, and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2030.
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