The major Japanese machinery company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said last Friday that it has succeeded in transmitting energy wirelessly, marking a step toward making solar energy generation in space a reality as stated by Phys.org
Mitsubishi Industries said it used microwave technology to send 10 kilowatts of power – enough to run a set of conventional kitchen appliances – through the air to a receiver 500 metres or about 1640 feet away. Wireless power transmission is currently under development as the core technology to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it on Earth.
While the distance in Mitsubishi’s experiment was not huge, the technology could pave the way for humankind to eventually tap the vast amount of solar energy in space. The announcement comes after Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA said it had also succeeded in moving a smaller 1.8 kilowatts of power wirelessly.
Many people know that Japan is poor in natural resources, but the country is looking for ways to overcome the energy gap left by the shutdown of its nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima atomic crisis. This incident forced Tokyo to turn to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives to keep the lights on.
According to Mitsubishi, solar power generation in space has many advantages over Earth-based power plants, specifically the permanent availability of energy, regardless of the weather or the time of day. Man-made satellites like the International Space Station have long been using solar energy that washes over them from the sun.
The Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one day be able to harvest an inexhaustible source of energy from space, but it will take years to fully commercialise this new technology. For years, the Japanese space agency has been working on developing Space Solar Power Systems, under which microwave-transmitting solar satellites would be set up about 36,000 kilometres or 22,300 miles from Earth.
Featured Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center