Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory believe that power beaming could be the next big thing in energy, capable of wirelessly powering devices and delivering electricity from miles away.
Basic physics and recent advances in transmission and reception technologies could one day provide power without needing electricity grids—potentially reducing the need for fuel transportation or batteries to store energy.
“It’s not the only option when you can’t string wires, but my colleagues and I expect, within the set of possible technologies for providing electricity to far-flung spots, that power beaming will, quite literally, shine,” Paul Jaffe Ph.D., Power Beaming and Space Solar Lead at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, wrote in an article published in the June 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum.
If power beaming technology could be successfully scaled up from experimental stages, it could be a game-changer for the green energy revolution.
Even though it’s still in its early stages, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory believe it has the potential to upend the way energy is distributed on Earth, in space, and from space to Earth.
The ideas and experiments have been around for decades. Yet, only recently, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory announced the most significant power beaming demonstration in nearly 50 years.
The team has recently demonstrated the feasibility of terrestrial microwave power beaming by transmitting 1.6 kilowatts of power over 1 kilometer as part of the project Safe and COntinuous Power bEaming—Microwave (SCOPE-M), funded by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund.
The researchers used a 10 gigahertz (GHz) microwave beam, which they believe is a great choice because the component technology is cheap and mature, and even in heavy rainfall, the loss of power is less than five percent.
The systems of microwave power beaming use transmitters that typically use solid-state electronic amplifiers and phased-array, parabolic, or metamaterial antennas. The receiver, called a rectenna, can convert electromagnetic energy into direct current electricity in wireless power transmission systems.
The team has found that it is possible to use a beam with such power density that is safe for birds, animals, and people. Moreover, efficiencies of power beaming within safety limits can exceed 70 percent, more than double that of a typical solar cell, Jaffe wrote.
“During the course of our demonstration, the system further proved itself when, on several occasions, birds flew toward the beam, shutting it off—but only momentarily. You see, the system monitors the volume the beam occupies, along with its immediate surroundings, allowing the power link to automatically reestablish itself when the path is once again clear,” the researcher wrote.
“As engineers, we develop systems that will not exceed those safety limits,” Jaffe said in a statement of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory last month.
“That means it’s safe for birds, animals, and people.”
The DOD believes that power beaming of space to Earth, for example, could mitigate the reliance on the fuel supply for troops, which can be vulnerable to attack.
According to Christopher Rodenbeck, Ph.D., Head of the Advanced Concepts Group at NRL, power beaming could be the ultimate green technology, which can provide power 24/7, unlike other sources of clean energy.
“That is something no other form of clean energy can do today,” Rodenbeck said. “From the standpoint of technology readiness level, I feel we are very close to demonstrating a system we can truly deploy and use in a DOD application.”
Besides the DOD, there are companies and start-ups working with and developing power beaming technology, which could power smart grids and create a wireless global energy network.
“As such companies establish proven track records for safety and make compelling arguments for the utility of their systems, we are likely to see whole new architectures emerge for sending power from place to place,” Jaffe wrote.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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