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An artist rendering of the potential orbiting solar plant. It would beam power to a massive lake-sized collector for optimal efficiency.   (Source: Kris Holland/Mafic Studios)

John C. Mankins, since leaving NASA, has spoken about his dream of space power both at various high profile news conferences. Now he has his biggest audience yet, with a historic proof-of-concept test airing on the Discovery channel.  (Source: Space Power Association)
New advances in power transmission would make Tesla proud

After decades of dormancy, interest in transmitting power wirelessly is finally heating up in the tech community.  Intel recently demoed its new wireless charging tech which it says could power its next generation chipsets.  Now, a former NASA researcher is revealing even grander plans to transform the business of power generation as we know it.

Funded by the Discovery Channel, John C. Mankins finished a four month experiment which began by collecting solar power, nothing out of the ordinary.  What happened next was relatively extraordinary, though -- he transmitted the power 92 miles (148 km) between two Hawaiian Islands. 

Terrestrial power transmission is only of interest to Mr. Mankins as a proof of concept.  Mr. Mankins' true plans are out of this world.  He envisions a network of 1,102 lb. (500 kg) satellites beaming solar power collected from panels back to Earth, satisfying all the world's power needs.

After working loyally for NASA for 25 years, he resigned after the solar program at the agency was terminated.  Now he's completed one of the more ambitious transmission experiments in history -- enough to make Nikola Tesla, the man who first envisioned wireless power transmission, proud.

The work still has a long way to go, though.  The transmission only successfully received one one-thousandth of the total power sent, a very low efficiency.  This was primarily because the receivers were so tiny.  Larger receivers, would still be rather inefficient, but could in theory, achieve much higher efficiencies.  Furthermore, the costs were relatively high at $1M USD, but Mr. Mankins believes the costs would decrease as the technology was scaled up.

In total each of the nine solar panels in the transmission assembly sent 2 watts of power.  They were originally equipped to send 20 watts, but the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would only approve the lower power transmissions.

The encouraging results have reaffirmed Mr. Mankins' commitment to one day bring space-based solar power to the world.  His vision is that one day a fleet of satellites will beam power down to lake-sized receivers.  He enthuses, "The test was in no way fully successful, (but) I think it showed it is possible to transmit solar power quickly and affordably."

Mr. Mankins is president of ARTEMIS Innovation Management Solutions LLC, a startup which provides "strategic planning, technology assessment, and R&D management objectives" to government agencies.  He is also president of the Space Power Association.

The U.S. military is investigating similar plans to use satellite based solar power to beam power to troops on the battlefield.

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By mattclary on 9/15/2008 8:52:06 AM , Rating: 2
Inefficiency of solar cells + inefficiency of broadcasting microwaves = file this under "won't freaking happen"

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 8:56:44 AM , Rating: 2
Well solar panels in space have much higher power yield than on earth surface though, because of lack of absorption of earth's atmosphere. Yes the panels are still in the same efficiency rating but the incident radiation is higher.

But I agree wireless can never beat wired in terms of efficiency.

RE: efficiency
By Cheapshot on 9/15/2008 9:00:34 AM , Rating: 3
Well I could sure find a lot of use for a cordless extension cord.

RE: efficiency
By FITCamaro on 9/15/08, Rating: 0
RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 11:35:28 AM , Rating: 2
There really isn't that much of a safety concern. I'd be far more worried about the interference effects of transmitting high-power beams of radio waves through the ionosphere. The FAA apparently wouldn't let them transmit more than 2 watts for this reason. Even in a secluded location, what a 2,000,000,000 watt beam going to do?

RE: efficiency
By 67STANG on 9/15/2008 12:14:29 PM , Rating: 2
In the U.S., the FCC has very strict regulations on wireless transmission power, which varies based upon frequency. I'm not sure what frequency is used, but nearly everything in public frequencies is not allowed to go past 2W on the power rating.

If the FAA would just mandate that air liners are made with integrated faraday worries.

RE: efficiency
By menace on 9/15/2008 2:45:44 PM , Rating: 3

A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure formed by conducting material, or by a mesh of such material.

Airliners are made of aluminum. Aluminum is highly conductive. This makes them faraday cages by definition. Even composite structures have a matrix embedded to make them conductive. Otherwise lightning strikes could easily knock out critical avionics.

RE: efficiency
By 67STANG on 9/15/2008 4:14:06 PM , Rating: 2
That's true... that is the word for word definition copied from wikipedia, thanks.

I always thought an effective Faraday Cage had to be closed on all sides with no exposure like cockpit windows, etc. I stand corrected.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 4:30:38 PM , Rating: 2
> "I always thought an effective Faraday Cage had to be closed on all sides with no exposure like cockpit windows"

Electrodynamics tells us that an electric field can't penetrate a hollow conductor. If that conducting shell isn't perfect, however (such as from cockpit windows or other openings) some EM can leak in. The depth and amount, though, depends on the size of the void as compared to the wavelength of the radiation.

Light, for instance, can leak in through a pinprick. Microwaves run a few centimeters in wavelength, though, and will see things like very coarse metal screens as effectively "solid".

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:42:45 PM , Rating: 2
> "If the FAA would just mandate that air liners are made with integrated faraday worries. "

As the prior poster points out, they already are...except for their antenna and systems which need to communicate with the air and ground. Fully shield an aircraft in a Faraday cage, and it's out of radio communication, and flying blind without radar. Not exactly a great idea.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 9:39:34 AM , Rating: 4
I never really totally understood the wireless craze. I for one just can not believe there is not any impact on your health from having 900MHZ to 5.8GHZ transmissions constantly going through us. I know I sound like a crackpot, but I swear to god that the bee population in my area has all but disappeared since wireless came along..

RE: efficiency
RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 9:57:22 AM , Rating: 5
> "I know I sound like a crackpot, but I swear to god that the bee population in my area has all but disappeared since wireless came along."

In my area, bees began disappearing only after the local Baskin Robbins closed down. Quite obviously these two events are related. . . clearly this dangerous lack of ice cream parlors is fatal to bees.

When you understand the problem with my statement, you'll understand the problem with yours.

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 10:06:36 AM , Rating: 3
As they state in statistic beginner textbooks as an example of danger of interpreting correlations without critical thinking and investigations.

There was an extremely good correlation in the 60s 70s between TV sets adoption and microwave oven adoption. None of above are causal to each other but rather due to the availability and customer spending power. But if you didn't know abut the title and see 2 graphs plotted on the same axis, you would have thought the 2 data sets are related.

RE: efficiency
By Entropy42 on 9/15/2008 10:19:15 AM , Rating: 2
There's nothing wrong with that statement. You got rid of both a crappy ice cream parlor and bees. I wish that would happen at my house.

RE: efficiency
By dl429 on 9/15/2008 12:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
This guy is like a dog with a frisbee...

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 12:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
When you understand the problem with my statement, you'll understand the problem with yours.
Yes I do, clearly bees like soft (aka dairy queen style) ice scream.

The bee thing was a joke by the way, I didn't think everyone was so opinionated on the subject.

RE: efficiency
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/15/2008 1:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Would vote you up if I could.
Hilarious logic reasoning teaching without excess of sarcasm... Which is different to total lack of sarcasm, but I suppose the dose you used lies well within a non-life threatening treshold :D

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 10:07:23 AM , Rating: 2
The scary part is this might be the cause. From what I have seen, some people say these radio waves mess with the bee's ability to redirect back to the hive, causing the hive to die. Hopefully they check into this kind of thing, cause I kinda like being able to eat fruits and vegetables...

But, the idea behind the transmission of energy was as tight a wave as possible, going directly from a satellite to a ground station, where there would likely be very little run off, and most likely not many concentrations of bees.

From what I gather, I can't find any evidence that radio waves damage people, but then again, who knows how hard they have really pushed to find out. I don't think the high frequency waves will be an issue though, since 2.4GHZ waves attenuate heavily through living creatures as it is, I'm sure anything in the 5.8GHZ range would disperse quickly just by touching clothing. 900MHZ and similar range waves, that would be interesting to see the research.

RE: efficiency
By menace on 9/15/2008 2:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
For all the myriad of (mostly wasteful) USDA study grants, surely there has been at least one that has studied the effects of various types of electromagnetic fields on bee navigation. If they found anything we would have heard about it.

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 3:19:42 PM , Rating: 2
Quite possible, but I would still like to see the results, just for curiosity's sake.

Magnetic fields are used for their internal clock. Not saying it for sure causes it, not even saying there is a good chance, just makes you wonder.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:45:43 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, there's a vast difference between magnetic fields and electromagnetic fields. . . which is why shining a light on a compass doesn't cause it to veer wildly.

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 4:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, but neither of us research in that field. On top of that, a bee is quite a bit different than a compass, and light is different than radio waves, while less so than the previous comparison. All I desire is to see the research on it, as I am curious, nothing more. I won't claim to know what it does for sure, but they surely need to find out why bees are ditching, cause that is a problem of worldly proportions.

RE: efficiency
By FITCamaro on 9/15/2008 10:20:18 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not a big fan of wireless either for most things. I'm having difficulty getting my 360 set up for wireless right now. I just moved and the router is no longer in the same room as the 360.

While I won't say what's killing off the honeybee, its definitely something that needs to be looked into since most plants, especially crops, rely on bees to pollinate them.

Mankind destroyed by wireless internet. Wouldn't that be a way to go.

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 10:36:16 AM , Rating: 2
To be honest I don't think wireless is the culprit in disappearing bees.

The fact that colony collapse disorder:
of bee colonies pretty much around the US and Europe. With such wide geological area affected I don't see any reason to believe the CCD is affected anything by wireless.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 10:59:18 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that CCD is affecting colonies dozens of miles from any cell phone tower, in places where signal strength is essentially nonexistent.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 1:10:12 PM , Rating: 2
However, late in the year 2006 and in early 2007 the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term "Colony Collapse Disorder" was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.[1]
Obviously you make a good point, but the term CCD was only came to light after the situation was worse than it ever was.

And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue. Farm land is a popular choice for cell phone towers, especially outside of large cities, no obstruction, cheaper to buy. I also get cell phone access far up north, in fact even my cottage which is about 500km from the closest city above 10k has cell phone towers.

Not that I actually believe that this is the reason, but you can not totally discount it. Just the fact that it is happening on a global scale kind of discounts many theories involving parasites or pesticides just because these are not regional events. The way I see it, wireless an cell phone towers causing bee's to die is just as plausible as a bee parasite pandemic, or a pesticide with unknown side effects being used everywhere, (if CCD is happening world around, then the same chemicals would also have to be used world around).

RE: efficiency
By Solandri on 9/15/2008 1:21:33 PM , Rating: 2
And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue. Farm land is a popular choice for cell phone towers, especially outside of large cities, no obstruction, cheaper to buy.

Most of the rural U.S. still has no digital cell phone coverage. The digital networks are concentrated around population centers and highways. There are still analog towers as a fallback, but almost nobody uses them nowadays and most phones no longer have analog capability.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 1:52:41 PM , Rating: 1
Thats just sprint..

The Verizon digital(not analogue) network is available in what looks to be over 75% of the States..

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:51:59 PM , Rating: 3
> "And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue"

That's not quite what I said. Bees are often near towers. They are often not near them, though. In the West, and in many less developed nations, there are vast tracts of lands which have bee colonies, but no cell phone towers whatsoever.

The leap to suspect an anthropogenic cause is premature. It's far more likely some natural sort of pest or virus. Consider the Chestnut Blight, for instance, that in just a few decades, killed some five billion trees, and nearly extincted the entire genus.

RE: efficiency
By Smoza on 9/15/2008 11:54:34 PM , Rating: 2
While I won't say what's killing off the honeybee, its definitely something that needs to be looked into since most plants, especially crops, rely on bees to pollinate them.

I remember an 60 minutes running a story on Honey Bees over here in Australia 12 months or so ago.

The story claimed that the Varroa mite was the cause of dramatic reduction in population across North America, Europe etc.

The story was significant here in Oz, due to the fact that our country was one a very small number of countries that the Varroa mite hadn't infected and Aussie beekeepers were making millions exporting healthy Honey Bees to the US.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 2:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
Just to clarify, I am much more worried about the fact that brain cancer is now officially the number one cancer killer in children (leukemia was the former), than bee's disappearing. My point was do not know the full extent of what cell phones and wireless do to our brains or to nature for that matter.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 2:47:10 PM , Rating: 2
ER penetration levels comparing children to adults.. And my mom said sugary cereals were bad...

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 2:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
I think the part that makes me doubt this, is the portion that says estimation of penetration. I think it would also be beneficial if they did an actual study on the affects of it. I'm kinda on the fence one way or another, as I haven't seen evidence really showing it one way or another.

RE: efficiency
By menace on 9/15/2008 3:46:15 PM , Rating: 3
Just to clarify, I am much more worried about the fact that brain cancer is now officially the number one cancer killer in children (leukemia was the former)

Really? Can you tell us your source?

According to American Cancer Society, leukemia is stil the #1 form of childhood cancer (33%) followed by brain cancer (21%). Incidence of brain cancer in children is 3 in 100,000 children. This compares to brain cancer incidence of 15-20 in 100,000 for whole US population.

You wouldn't expect a child to have lung cancer or colon cancer or breast cancer or prostate cancer or skin cancer. So that makes brain cancer show up high on the list of childhood cancers. The percentage seems large but that is because total incidence of all cancers for children is relatively low (15 in 100,000).

I haven't found evidence of any studies to suggest that the incidence of brain cancer in children has signficantly risen during the wireless device age. But still I would not allow a child under 12 to possess one (or even under 16 for that matter), because of the (ir)responsibility factor and adverse impact on social development.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:56:15 PM , Rating: 3
> "According to American Cancer Society, leukemia is stil the #1 form of childhood cancer (33%) ..."

Wait a minute. . . don't children tend to consume more ice cream also? I smell a definite correlation here between childhold cancer, ice cream parlors, and the disappearance of bees.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
... and yet, the same kind of dismissive arguement could be applied to whatever IS the actual cause, so it serves no useful purpose to take such an attitude. Quite a few facts begin as mere speculation, there's no useful purpose in trying to compare something reasonable with something unreasonable.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/16/2008 12:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
> "so it serves no useful purpose to take such an attitude"

Of course it does. Any scientist, and even lay people, should always maintain a healthy skepticism. Tremendous harm has come from people gullibly accepting a chance correlation as a casual relationship.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/25/2008 2:19:52 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have to be gullible to wait for more information before forming doubt. There's a middle ground where one remains open to further scrutiny instead of clinging to presupposed concepts.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:24:03 AM , Rating: 2
Being able to better communicate will have an adverse impact on social development? Absolutely not, while the day might not be here yet, there will come a day when not having a cell phone is a handicap that seriously impedes social development. That day might already be here.

You might say "oh but I didn't have one when I was a kid", and that wouldn't matter at all because social development is not an absolute, it's about engaging in communication with one's peers in the same way that they do, not how you /did/.

RE: efficiency
By Goty on 9/15/2008 10:49:33 AM , Rating: 2
Solar panel technology today is mainly geared toward absorption of photons in the Near-IR and visible ranges of the EM spectrum, neither of which are significantly absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere.

RE: efficiency
By mattclary on 9/15/2008 11:06:10 AM , Rating: 3
And how big would these satellites have to be to be useful? How big would one have to be to power a city? What if that beam strays from target?

There are SOOOOO many better ways to do alternative energy than this way. I think wind is a boondoggle, but it seems much more feasible than this.

RE: efficiency
By milodog on 9/15/2008 12:54:29 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with AnnihilatorX "But I agree wireless can never beat wired in terms of efficiency"

Because even in Battlestar Galactica they don't reroute power to the sub light engines wirelessly its all wired.

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 2:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
That's definitely a fact. Think superconductors. Although we put in energy to cool superconductors in the first place (unless they develop higher temperature SCs), efficiency of energy transfer itself from one point to another is 100% efficient.

RE: efficiency
By Solandri on 9/15/2008 1:10:31 PM , Rating: 2
Well solar panels in space have much higher power yield than on earth surface though, because of lack of absorption of earth's atmosphere. Yes the panels are still in the same efficiency rating but the incident radiation is higher.

Isn't it only 2x higher? Like 1500 W/m^2 in space vs. 750 W/m^2 on earth?

Bear in mind that getting stuff to low earth orbit costs over $1000/kg, even more for geosynchronous (and those slots are coveted for communications). Solar already has problems due to its massive up-front costs. A space-based solar array just seems to be exacerbating its negatives.

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 2:19:10 PM , Rating: 2
I think there is another factor as well. Something to do with the light spectrum (frequency band of absorption of light in atmosphere) as well. I may be wrong here.

RE: efficiency
By menace on 9/15/2008 4:01:34 PM , Rating: 2
It's only 2x like higher but also you only get effectively 20-50% of the time with good direct sunlight (depending on location, climate, and time of the year). The satellite of course would be capable of beaming down energy almost continuously (with rare blackouts in the earth's umbra) while ground based solar is intermittent and would require energy storage. A satellite system would not need storage but on the minus side it would be very expensive to lift all those satellites into orbit. I think you might need to have at least 20% transmission efficiency just to break even with ground based solar.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 4:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
There's a few other factors besides eliminating atmospheric absorption and clouds. In the right location, you can eliminate the day/night cycle entirely, obviating the need for energy storage. You can also direct the beam, meaning you can easily power areas in Nothern latitudes, without needing thousands of miles of lossy electrical cables.

Furthermore, there's no weather in space, so your panels stay clean and don't take wind and hail damage, and there's no gravity, so you can build massive concentrator systems cheaply, since they don't need to support their own weight.

On the downside, you have the enormous cost of lifting anything into space, plus the exhorbitant cost of servicing the system, should anything ever go wrong with it.

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 8:59:05 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, that was one of the things they addressed in the show. A company was working on making solar cells more efficient by putting a reflective prism over top the cell. They tested it side by side to a normal cell, and they produced 8 times the energy with just this addition. Now I can't say this makes everything work, but it is impressive none the less. This simple addition could make already in use solar cells 8 times more efficient, for the price of some cheap silicon. Also, from what I saw, they were getting around 80% of the microwaves when they tested. The technology was neat, and for a quick experiment, I was pretty impressed.

RE: efficiency
By Schrag4 on 9/15/2008 10:38:42 AM , Rating: 2
They tested it side by side to a normal cell, and they produced 8 times the energy with just this addition.

Ok, this doesn't make sense. Let's pretend that a 'normal cell' has an efficiency of 15% (this is pretty low by today's standards by the way). 8 x 15% = 120%

The technology was neat, and for a quick experiment, I was pretty impressed.

Yeah, I would be pretty impressed too if it were true.

...8 times. :-)) You just made my day. I'm still chuckling..

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 10:55:50 AM , Rating: 2
OK, take it up with the guys on the show, I am merely regurgitating what they pointed out. The man stated 8 times the power output. Watch the Project Earth episode about it, true or not, I have no stake in it, I am merely impressed by the simple addition providing a increase in power output.

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 10:58:51 AM , Rating: 2
And on the same note, it wasn't the efficiency of the cell that was increased, but the intensity of the light. Focusing the light more effectively yielded more energy, which technically has nothing to do with the efficiency of the cell itself, which is exactly the same as the other. The lens was a flat, flexible piece that had multiple mini prisms shaped into it, which amplified and directed light towards the cell.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 11:32:37 AM , Rating: 2
I can only assume this lens was a fresnel-like concentrator that had 8 times the collecting area as the cell itself. That's the only way you can increase the intensity of incident light-- you can't otherwise just"amplify" light.

RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 11:38:23 AM , Rating: 2
You would be correct sir. Nice call, I forgot the name of the thing.

RE: efficiency
By Innocent Hawk on 9/15/2008 11:33:24 AM , Rating: 4
It never ceases to amaze me how many people utterly FAIL at math when dealing with multiplication and/or percentages.

When he said it increases the power output by 8 times, that just means that the efficiency of the solar cell is applied to the new power output. The efficiency did not change, but the usable power attained at the end still does.

Solar cells have an efficiency between 5% and 18% depending on who made it and how it was made. Lets use your value of 15% however.

If a current solar cell generates, say, 100 watts but has an efficiency of 15%, then that means 15 watts were generated for use. If the prisms previously mentioned do indeed multiply the power 8 times, then that means we now are getting 800 watts. The panels are still stuck with a 15% efficiency rating however. This means that we get 15% of 800 watts , which means the end result is 120 watts.

Review/Math Checking:
15% of 800 = 120
15% of 100 = 15
15 x 8 = 120
Conclusion: 8 times more power was gained from the solar cell.

RE: efficiency
By chmilz on 9/15/2008 1:40:35 PM , Rating: 2
Wasn't it Chris Rock that made fun of how dumb people are at math?

"What's four plus four?"
"Ummm... jello?"

RE: efficiency
By rcc on 9/15/2008 5:32:54 PM , Rating: 2
Like the definition of lottery?

"A tax on people that can't do math".

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
Completely wrong. If a solar cell generates 100W with an efficiency of 15%, that means that 100/.15 = 667W worth of light was cast upon them. A 100W solar cell is a 100W solar cell, you utterly FAIL.

RE: efficiency
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/15/2008 9:20:58 AM , Rating: 3
Never say never, mate.

The first cars to appear were mostly a piece of useless junk, automobile technology didn't start to blossom till cars like the Ford T appeared and gained massive presence.

New technologies at first usually don't seem to hold any promise, but many of them actually scale and make it to the market, some even radically changing our lifestyles.

Of course, also many of those new technology proposals end up as wierd projects that get shelved forever... But those, usually are technologies that no one is interested in.

Wireless power transmission is a pretty much desired thing, so I guess we'll be seing more articles about it in the years to come.

RE: efficiency
By Formori on 9/15/2008 11:02:43 AM , Rating: 2
I was going to say something similar to what your saying DeepBlue.

That, 50 years ago would you have thought we'd have wireless broadband communications in something so small as a pocket phone? No way in hell. If you proposed something like that to the technical community back then you would have been laughed out, so just because you don't understand it now don't shove it aside as useless.

"The guy who invented velcro would have been rich, if he knew what he had invented."

And on the note about efficiency, outside the atmosphere energy accessibility does increase 8 to 10 fold, so the efficiency of the panels isn't much of an issue since there's more readily available power. I don't know how safe actually transmitting megaWatts of power across the country is, but I think now that something like this is becoming a more popular idea the safety of it will get looked into more. Or atleast I hope it will.

RE: efficiency
By mattclary on 9/15/2008 11:13:15 AM , Rating: 2
There is a big difference between circuitry miniaturization and changing the laws of physics. Transmitting useful amounts of power wirelessly is not the same thing.

RE: efficiency
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/15/2008 12:46:11 PM , Rating: 3
Now. But who knows which new breakthroughs can be made over time, so that today´s impossibles become possibles without violating any physical law.

RE: efficiency
By Yeco on 9/15/2008 11:59:21 AM , Rating: 2

But hey we all drive with very ineffecient cars. When it is affordable, it maybe introduced in some area's.

Those radiowaves of cellular phones all come very close in frequency to the waves of a microwave oven. So they heat up your brain a bit, only problem is when you use your phone several houres a day.
The waves themselves that pas through the air aren't focused enough on you to be dangerous.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:33:42 AM , Rating: 2
The great lie. No, we don't drive very inefficient cars because in relative terms you would have to have real examples of very efficient cars to contrast. It is never acceptible to claim some hypothetical ideal on paper to contrast reality, because in that sense there is nothing anywhere in our lives that is very efficient.

Cars are very efficient. It's all relative. Even the human body, the sun, anything you care to consider isn't "very efficient" if you only want to consider nonsensical notions of power loss because there will always be power loss so it's always a matter of context.

RE: efficiency
By zinfamous on 9/15/2008 2:19:03 PM , Rating: 2
Good thing the real innovators ignore the status quo

Even if this specific project isn't implemented, it's people like this who challenge expectations and their work that leads to tangible innovation.

RE: efficiency
By phxfreddy on 9/15/2008 4:04:29 PM , Rating: 2
I used to work as a Radio Frequency Design Engineer.

Even just to send 10 watts of power at microwave frequencies is big bucks for a galium arsenide power FET.

If they plan to have directive antennas it will require some basically impossible power levels at microwave frequencies.

I would posit that Mr Discovery Channel wasted his money. He plays endless Church of Latter Day Global Warming shows on his channel. When will he air "The Great Global Warming Swindle" ????

Space-based energy collectors
By Paperdoc on 9/15/2008 10:21:55 AM , Rating: 2
Just what we need - more solar energy at the earth's surface! Think carefully about the Global Warming phenomenon and its mechanism. The earth constantly receives a huge influx of energy from the sun. Most of the higher-energy infrared (heat) energy gets re-radiated into space at slightly lower energies, but still at wavelengths that can penetrate through our atmosphere and escape. But whenever we "use" energy in all forms, we end up releasing low-energy (longer wavelength) infrared that cannot penetrate the atmosphere and is trapped there, close to our surface. It becomes part of the atmospheric energy pool that creates our weather. That is called the "Greenhouse Effect".

Recent attention has been focussed on how we are altering our atmosphere by adding more gases to it (like carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels)that increase the Greenhouse Effect by trapping more infrared energy in the atmosphere. And of course, at the same time we are releasing more low-energy IR or "waste heat". But this proposal to collect huge amounts of energy in space, beam it to earth, and use it here means we will create even more "waste heat" as we increase out energy consumption. It would avoid the limits we face on existing earth-bound sources of energy by bringing in an external supply. That will allow us to make the Greenhouse Effect worse in a different way. Instead of trapping low-grade heat more efectively in the atmosphere, we would just create more low-grade heat to be trapped. Same results!! Buy more Arizona beachfront property-to-be!

By Indianapolis on 9/15/2008 11:39:36 AM , Rating: 2
This was also my first thought when I read this article. Harnessing solar energy that is already reaching the earth seems rather innocuous, but are we sure that directing more of the sun's energy to the earth is a good idea? Maybe the effect will be small relatively speaking, but it kinda seems like putting the earth in a microwave.

RE: Space-based energy collectors
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 12:14:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Earth receives some 175,000,000 Gigawatts of power from the sun. Transmitting a few extra GW down isn't going to make an appreciable difference. . . especially if the solar satellite is otherwise occluding sunlight from the surface for at least part of its orbit.

RE: Space-based energy collectors
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:45:23 AM , Rating: 2
False logic. Until we are able to harness those 175,000,000 GW the factor is still what we can generate by whatever means necessary. It all makes a difference, one GW at a time. The worst thing is to do what you are doing, make excuses why we should theorize instead of actually DOING. Always DO, never shun DOING. There is no excuse to not DO, no matter what you might thing would be better because those better things are things we AREN'T DOING!!

Once we're doing the things you idealize about, only then will there be no reason to pursue other alternatives. That's not happening, so we are left with all the alternatives we can implement one step at a time. It really doesn't matter if something else is hypothetically better, if we want to take that attitude then even posting here on Dailytech is hypothetically worse than doing other things.

RE: Space-based energy collectors
By masher2 on 9/16/2008 12:19:09 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know how you could possibly manage to misunderstand my post to such a shocking extent, but I suggest you reread it. I wasn't criticising the possibility of solar power satellites; far from it, in fact. I was merely pointing out that such satellites, on any reasonable scale, possibly increase surface temperatures globally.

Um, lake sized receivers?
By PaxtonFettel on 9/15/2008 8:58:56 AM , Rating: 2
If they have to be so huge, you might as well just leave the panels on the Earth's surface in the first place. Yes, the atmosphere would attenutate some of the energy, but the innefficency of transmission would account for that anyway...

RE: Um, lake sized receivers?
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 9:01:17 AM , Rating: 2 got a whole moon to build panels on!

RE: Um, lake sized receivers?
By vapore0n on 9/15/2008 9:18:34 AM , Rating: 3
"thats no moon"

build a solar energy focus cannon in the moon and fire it at a solar plant in earth.

That will either produce a ton of power, or burn the atmosphere and explode the whole earth

RE: Um, lake sized receivers?
By menace on 9/15/2008 4:07:23 PM , Rating: 2
I predict that would set the Van Allen radiation belt on fire and incerate all life on earth. Of course we could then put out the fire with the nukes from one submarine. Hey it worked on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Ok I'm showing my age on this.

Gundam 00 anyone?
By suryad on 9/15/2008 8:49:45 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds awfully similar to the make-believe solar technology they depict in that show...

RE: Gundam 00 anyone?
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 8:54:49 AM , Rating: 2
Well in the show there are huge space elevators linking space based solar power generators to the earth, not exactly through wireless power transmission.

If you are to put up an video/game alternative, it got to be the microwave power plant in SimCity :P. Ok bad example.

RE: Gundam 00 anyone?
By Hypernova on 9/15/2008 9:04:38 AM , Rating: 2
Quite different in that in G-00 transmission is through power cables on the space elevator. Which IMO is a better idea.

The thing about using microwave is that you either have a wide beam (expensive) so people can stand under it or a narrow beam focused on a small, VERY clearly marked area. And hope people/bird/plane don' get near it.

By Fronzbot on 9/15/2008 9:16:53 AM , Rating: 4
Who cares! The idea is awesome!

And anyways, in the future we will all use the power generated by the tears of orphans.

Cruel or Genius ?

RE: Efficency?
By FITCamaro on 9/15/2008 9:35:12 AM , Rating: 2
Jason is that you? :) (have a friend who would say something exactly like this)

By Amiga500 on 9/15/2008 9:37:33 AM , Rating: 4
Thanks must go to Maxis... creator of SimCity for inspiring this research :-D

Now... if only they'd get a move on with the hydrogen plant...

Damn... also need to save up for that new airport...

Hmmm.... I think we need to legalise gambling folks

RE: Genius
By legoman666 on 9/15/2008 10:03:01 AM , Rating: 2
SC2K was my first thought when I read the article.

How is this new?
By wwwebsurfer on 9/15/2008 10:16:24 AM , Rating: 2
RE: How is this new?
By Indianapolis on 9/15/2008 11:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
LOL. I think the idea with this new method is that it actually works.

Wait a minute
By Suntan on 9/15/2008 3:08:04 PM , Rating: 2
Wait a minute, everybody is going monkey over the fact that the earth my be getting too hot from all the sun’s rays not being allowed to dissipate back out into space (global warming) and this guy wants to put a bunch of really big reflectors up in space to focus more sunlight on the earth?

Would the greens be for this, because it reduces CO2 production, or against it because it increases solar load on the earth?


RE: Wait a minute
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 4:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
> "Would the greens be for this, because it reduces CO2 production, or against it because it increases solar load on the earth?"

As long as it remains hugely expensive and impractical-- they'll be all for it. If that changes, though, so will their opinion.

By masher2 on 9/15/2008 4:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
Just curious here, Jason-- but when Intel demonstrated transmitting power only a few inches, just enough to power a mouse or cell phone, you called it "bizarre".

Now, we have a system intended to transmit billions of times as much power over distances a million times further. . . and you seem to be all for it?

Personally, I'm very upbeat on solar power satellites. Assuming we can solve the lifting costs issue, its the one way commercial solar power can be effective. But I seem to sense a bit of a dichotomy in your reporting here.

RE: Curious
By Yossarian22 on 9/16/2008 12:11:24 AM , Rating: 2
There is no particular reason to take bizarre in a negative connotation, although it traditionally has been used as such. Removing the connotations of the word just leaves us with "weird" or "otherworldly", the latter probably being more accurate. And wireless power is definitely an "otherworldly" technology just because of its presence in Science Fiction.

That is assuming the context of the word wasn't something along the lines of "This tech is bizarre, useless, and a waste of time and effort".

Wireless Power Transmission
By Paperdoc on 9/16/2008 9:22:19 AM , Rating: 2
Wireless power transmission is not totally new. Making it efficient certainly is a challenge, though. I remember back about 1960 seeing an article in Popular Science or some such on how to build a low-power radio receiver that used power drawn from existing radio signals! This was not a crystal radio, but a simple transistor amplifier circuit with tuning and detector elements. To provide power for the amp, there was a second passive tuner circuit. The idea was to tune the power-supply circuit to a strong local station, and its high-frequency rectified output was used to charge a capacitor as the dc supply to the transistor amp. Definitely an amateur electronics project just to illustrate a concept and not intended for prime time. But still, it was a "proof of concept" on a very small scale.

RE: Wireless Power Transmission
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 9:49:50 AM , Rating: 2
And Nicola Tesla had a car that ran off power that was transmitted from the Niagra Falls hydroelectric dam in the 20s. Of course this isn't new, but to this scale, it is quite an undertaking, most likely not even remotely possible till recently.

Sim City 2000
By freshmint on 9/15/2008 11:18:50 AM , Rating: 2
So is this technology similar in nature to Sim City 2000's microwave power plants?

Satellite to magnify sunshine
By omgwtf8888 on 9/15/2008 2:11:57 PM , Rating: 2
I think i would rather see, a giant magnifying glass put into orbit that could focus sunlight onto solar collectors (think giant ant fryer). Maybe we could even salvage Hubble for this job... Of course the military would love such a toy... instantly vaporize any human on earth and say it was spontaneous combustion....

By Kary on 9/15/2008 5:16:15 PM , Rating: 2
"Scientist Transmits Solar Power on Earth, Next Up: Space"

Crap, I'm dissapointed

By Sannerprojects on 9/17/2008 12:39:53 AM , Rating: 2
Lots of Space related Energy collection ideas. The Upsides are reasonably understood, not totally judging by comments. For example, collection can be 24 x 7 unlike Earth. If you went into biz with only an upside understanding, sooner or later you will fail. Here's some intolerable downsides: The transmitting satellite started wobbling and the beam accidentally irradiated (this form of energy is radiation) New York City! Or, the guides were affected by space radiation (some measured in Teravolts),efficiency decreased astronomically (pun intended), and side-lobes of energy became dangerous. Does anyone know how many satellites we lost due to 'station keeping' errors, or space induced? Our heralded space engineers goofed first time out with Hubble, and other prominent efforts confused metric! What happens if an Airplane Strays, or a military Squad has, God forbid, to intercept another 9-11 type episode, and overfly. How many generations will it take to know the chromosomal damage? Or, a weather balloon strays, flocks of birds? Has anyone modeled whether a weather system can "lense" the energy, or add pesky unwanted frequencies - this time doing a total renovation by radiation on the city of Detroit? My company is intent on commercializing ground based high efficiency renewable energy systems e.g.,next generation wind turbines, Solar Thermal which may have a starting cost of $1,000/KW, and produce $.05/kWh electricity. With production ramped up, $500/KW. I'm in favor of Space Tech, and conquest, but, I think it must be paid for by revamping Earth's industry / civilization (transfer of wealth etc) with copious, cheap, carbon free electricity/ power. All of which is within our grasp. Switch focus, or leave out finangle factors when dealing with "bleeding edge" vs leading edge technology, and you remove the oxygen resources so desparately needed for in-situ solutions. Iceland will remain the 4th richest European nation, because of its judicious tapping of its geothermal. We have a multiple of the worlds needs in renewable energy stocks, within US Territory.
Jay R CEO Sannerprojects Inc

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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