Historic power beam energy test paves way to zap energy to troops from SPACE

WASHINGTON — Could soldiers in the future receive the power for their equipment from space? A team of researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have demonstrated the feasibility of terrestrial microwave power beaming by transmitting 1.6 kilowatts of power over one kilometer (km).

The achievement, by a team at the U.S. Army Research Field in Blossom Point, Maryland, is reportedly the most significant power beaming demonstration in nearly 50 years. Microwave power beaming is the efficient, point-to-point transfer of electrical energy across free space by a directive microwave beam.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) believes wireless beaming of energy from space will be vital for zapping fuel supplies to battlefield troops. Scientists are also touting it as the “ultimate green technology,” with a constant year-round supply available as opposed to other “sporadic” green energy sources.

The demonstrations pave the way for power beaming on Earth, in space, and from space to Earth using power densities within safety limits set by international standards bodies.

Tower
THIS PICTURE: Equipment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Massachusetts.

“As engineers, we develop systems that will not exceed those safety limits,” says Paul Jaffe Ph.D., Power Beaming and Space Solar Lead, in a media release. “That means it’s safe for birds, animals, and people.”

Within 12 months, NRL established the practicality of terrestrial microwave power beaming and beamed one kilowatt (kW) of electrical power over a distance of one kilometer (0.62 miles) using a 10 gigahertz (GHz) microwave beam.

The beams even cut through bad weather

Safe and Continuous Power Beaming – Microwave (SCOPE-M) demonstrated power beaming at two locations, one at the U.S. Army Research Field at Blossom Point and the other at The Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR) transmitter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“The reason for setting those targets is to push this technology farther than has been demonstrated before,” Jaffe says.

“You don’t want to use too high a frequency as it can start losing power to the atmosphere,” adds project principal investigator, Christopher Rodenbeck, Ph.D., Head of the Advanced Concepts Group, NRL. “10 GHz is a great choice because the component technology out there is cheap and mature. Even in heavy rainfall, loss of power is less than five percent.”

In Maryland, the team exceeded their target by 60 percent by beaming 1.6 kW just over one kilometer. At the Massachusetts site, the team did not have the same peak power, but the average power was much higher, thereby delivering more energy.

Jaffe notes that during past experiments with laser power beaming using much higher power densities, the engineers were able to successfully implement interlock systems so if something approached the beam it would turn off.

“We did not have to do that with SCOPE-M because the power density was sufficiently low that it was intrinsically safe,” Jaffe says.

‘Something no other form of clean energy can do’

Brian Tierney, Ph.D., SCOPE-M electronics engineer, says the DOD is interested in wireless power beaming, particularly wireless power beaming from space, and that a similar rectenna (rectifying antenna) array as used for SCOPE-M could be used in space. A rectenna is a special type of receiving antenna for converting electromagnetic energy into direct current electricity in wireless power transmission systems.

HUSIR
THIS PICTURE: The Haystack Ultrawideband Satellite Imaging Radar (HUSIR) transmitter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Massachusetts.

“Although SCOPE-M was a terrestrial power beaming link, it was a good proof of concept for a space power beaming link,” Tierney says. “The main benefit of space to Earth power beaming for the DOD is to mitigate the reliance on the fuel supply for troops, which can be vulnerable to attack.”

Besides being a DOD priority, Rodenbeck says power beaming can provide power continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — unlike other sources of clean energy, which provides intermittent and sporadic electrical power.

“That is something no other form of clean energy can do today,” Rodenbeck adds. “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.”

The project, Safe and COntinuous Power bEaming – Microwave (SCOPE-M), is funded by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund.

South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.

Comments

  1. This is not clean energy it’s just energy transmission.
    This article never mentions how the energy is generated.

  2. Why for the military and not for natural disasters like hurricanes and such?
    It seems like power for death on foreign soil instead of power for life.
    Gerard K O’neill years ago advocated for power from space in the same way to relieve the energy crisis of the 70’s. See the book: “The High Frontier”.
    The environmentalists of the time attacked that plan. I wonder what they will say about this.
    … L5 in 2035!

  3. I bet it can be used as a weapon also. Dial it down to transmit power. Crank it up to microwave soldiers or “enemy combatants”.

  4. 1.6kW/km^2 is 1.6mW/m^2. Sunlight is roughly 0.5kW/m^2. A cell phone with ~1W transmitting power gives an intensity at 1m of 80mW/m^2.

    Not really seeing how this will power anything.

    1. Solar power generation above the earth is 4x stronger per sq meter since 3/4 of energy is filtered out by atmosphere.

  5. This is a system that can transmit power from Point A to Point B. But where is the power coming from in the first place? Also if the experiment delivered one kW of power to Point B, how efficiently did it do so, what are the losses? Did it take 2 kW of source power at Point A? Even standard power lines have losses due to resistance.

  6. I worked on the Sondrastrom Greenland system many years ago, It seems to me It’s 100kW transmitter would work fine for the experiment if another portable system was used to receive the power and convert the energy to DC, then reconvert to AC for useful energy in today’s systems. I’m not an engineer, but a pretty darn good RF tech. The conversions would not be that efficient even with today’s equipment.
    I think the experiment will be useful and possible. Even with the path losses and the focus of the antenna, If the beam width is small enough to get the gain needed for capture at the receiving end is good enough or equal to the transmitter site. It would be very interesting to see the results.
    Good luck with your experiment I would love to see the results

  7. …the Chinese demonstrated something like this a few years back though the idea was to deploy massive arrays of solar panels floating in space beaming continuous power back down to the surface.

  8. WOW ! Just think ,it could be used to burn up towns in California,dry up the west,freeze the Midwest,and send hurricanes to Florida. Damn good thing they haven’t thought of this.This article is just a little behind the times,like 50 or so years.

  9. Would prefer not to need troops in the future, but many are dead set on causing death, so it is a reasonable assumption that we will. Generators spinning in zero is rather ideal, perhaps we could make a network of them and ground rectennas or whatever the collector unit is called. Could beam power down to the dark side of the planet as it spins and PV Solar isn’t possible. Energy storage during that time, is what is holding back the deployment of LARGE scale solar farms. There would be no need to “overproduce” during the day either so less modules would be required. The collectors on thw ground could be at the large scale farms and use their exsisting infrastructure. The locations where extremely large solar arrays would be built would probably share a lot of the same requirements. Idk, one can dream

  10. With these kind or things, which create hype over RF power transmission, one thing that never ever gets mentioned is the efficiency of the transmission, which is ludicrously small. 1Kw … sure, but if that is the output, what was the input?! And what size was the transmitting/receiving dish? These details would show how impractical is the idea… and it’s not just a random guy in the internet what prevents this, it’s 1900s good old physics… unfortunately.

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