eveloped by Caltech’s Space-Based Solar Power Project (SSPP), the corporation has announced that the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1) has successfully demonstrated wireless power transfer and beamed detectable power to Earth for the first time. The Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE ) has been conducted by a US research team led by Professor Ali Hajimiri.
One of the three key technologies tested within SSPD-1, MAPLE employs an array of flexible and lightweight microwave power transmitters driven by custom electronic chips. These transmitters precisely direct the transmitted energy towards desired locations. The system is said to represent a significant leap forward in wireless power transfer. MAPLE is able to dynamically focus and control the direction of the transmitted energy, achieving unparalleled efficiency without the need for any moving parts, reports Caltech.
Professor Ali Hajimiri explains:
“Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space.”
The implications of harnessing solar energy from space and using it on a daily basis are immense.
Space-based solar power provides an unparalleled opportunity to tap into the virtually limitless solar energy available in outer space. Unlike solar panels on Earth, which are limited by daylight and weather conditions, solar panels in space would continuously generate electricity. The potential yield of space solar power is estimated to be up to eight times greater than traditional solar panels on Earth’s surface.
There are currently a number of research initiatives looking at satellites equipped with an array of mirrors to reflect sunlight into a power-conversion device. The collected energy could then be released to Earth via a laser or microwave emitter. Microwave transmitting satellites with solar reflectors spanning up to 2 miles could one day orbit Earth about 20,000 miles above the surface.
Japan is working on a proposal to create satellites capable of transmitting energy harvested by their solar panels to Earth. The first experiment is scheduled for 2025. The country’s authorities and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants to begin deploying small satellites in orbit, at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres. These satellites would be designed to collect solar energy via their panels and then transmit converted microwave energy to Earth. This energy would be sent to receiving stations on the ground and transformed into electricity.