Harnessing the power of the sun from space and transmitting it back to Earth appears to be a step closer.
Scientists at Russia’s Rostec Corporation say their research work is complete and they have developed a prototype solar powered oxygen-iodine laser. The plan is to install the technology on orbital satellites, which would beam the energy back to Earth where it would be converted to electricity.
“It is planned that the final stage of developing laser systems for transforming solar energy will be accomplished after 2020,” stated Sergei Popov, First Deputy CEO of Shvabe Holding Company; part of Rostec.
Rostec’s researchers have been tinkering with this for some years. Back in 2015, it was claimed the technology would be cheaper than solar panel based electricity generation; but solar equipment has dropped in price a great deal since that time.
An oxygen-iodine laser creates an infrared beam that (unlike in the top right image) is invisible to the naked eye. Apparently, these lasers are capable of output power scaling up to megawatts in continuous mode. Originally developed by the US Air Force in 1970’s for military applications, the technology can also be applied to cutting and drilling.
Rostec is a Russian state corporation that was established around a decade ago to develop and export high-tech industrial products for civil and defense sectors. It consists of hundreds of entities, including Kalashnikov.
Some might find the prospect of a corporation also involved with the development of a 20-tonne reconnaissance and attack robot and various other weapons dabbling with high powered lasers beaming back to Earth a little unsettling. However, it’s not as though there’s any shortage of Western corporations with their toes in both the renewable energy and weapons sectors.
Regardless, here’s hoping to ongoing friendly relations with the Russians if Rostec’s system does make prime-time.
Space-based solar powered energy generation technology that transmits back to Earth has had a bit of attention over the last decade – we detailed other projects in a story a couple of years back.
Lasers powered by the sun could also potentially help blast pesky asteroids that threaten us with going the way of the dinosaurs.
Combining solar power and lasers has other applications here on Earth as well. For example, a solar powered mosquito-zapping laser has been developed.