A team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology announced that their space prototype “harvested” sunlight, turned it into electricity and transmitted it to microwave receivers in Pasadena. So this is the first time that solar power has been transmitted to Earth. This is reported by Engadget.
“To the best of our knowledge, no one has ever demonstrated wireless energy transfer in space even with expensive rigid structures. We are doing it with flexible lightweight structures and with our own integrated circuits. This is a first,” said Ali Hajimiri, professor of electrical engineering and medical engineering and co-director of Caltech’s Space Solar Power Project (SSPP).
The Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE) is one of three projects carried out aboard the prototype Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1). It involves two arrays of receivers and lightweight microwave transmitters with special chips.
The design of the transmitters was planned to minimize the amount of fuel needed to send them into space. The design must also be flexible enough to allow the transmitters to be folded onto the rocket.
It was previously reported that Japan will try to transfer solar power from space by 2025. As part of the work, it is planned to deploy a series of small devices in orbit that will try to direct the collected solar energy to ground receiving stations hundreds of kilometers away.
The use of orbiting solar panels and microwaves to transmit energy to Earth was first proposed in 1968. Since then, several countries, including China and the United States, have spent time and money to implement this idea.