How Can We Harness the Power of Space Elevators and Atmospheric Electricity?

In summary: The power was transmitted from a high-power solar array on top of a tracking tower to a distribution system on the ground."This article says that the first space-based solar power system was developed in the 1970s and that it had a efficiency of 84%.I'm not sure if the efficiency of an endogenously powered space elevator would be higher, lower, or the same. It would likely be more efficient than today's space-based solar power systems, but it's unclear how efficient it would be.
  • #1
Mk
2,043
4
Hi PF,
I've been tasked with joining a team in Budapest to design an endogenously powered space elevator.
I was wondering if I could talk about some concepts with you while I prepare for the 1 month camp.
http://copernicus.exosphe.re/

Right now I'm wondering if there is a way I can generate a strength curve for materials created over time. For example, is there any chance that the time that kevlar was invented, and the time that nanotubes were invented fall around an exponential curve? The maximum speed of manmade vehicles did, and allowed scientists to predict when they would be able to leave the Earth. If that strength/time curve is not already available, what materials do you think are significant milestones in strength?

Second, I'm also trying to wrap my head around the physics of space elevators. So far it seems like if the tether is less than 25,000 km tall, it will want to fall to the Earth. But if it's longer than that and has a counterweight, if the tether was cut from its base on earth, it would tend to rise up off the ground and float away into space.

Third, the task is to design an endogenously powered space elevator that coordinates with asteroid mining companies. If a payload is lowered down an elevator, how would we extract energy from that process?
  1. The first thought I had was eddy currents. I remember seeing some neodymium magnets fall down a copper tube cooled by liquid nitrogen. That would be a way to slow its fall, but does it produce energy we can tap? Or just heat energy?
  2. Induction: perhaps this is a more ordered form of the same eddy currents. Right? I remember passing a neodymium magnet through the inside of a loop of wire and detecting a current.
  3. A friend of mine who works on radio towers says that when air blows against the radio tower, it generates a static electricity potential high enough that it can destroy the equipment on the radio tower and protective measures have to be put in place. Is there a way to capitalize off of this "problem?"
  4. There are intriguing magnetic and electric phenomena in the region between the lower atmosphere and outer space.
I'll post back with more thoughts later.
 
Last edited:
Astronomy news on Phys.org
  • #2
Is this elevator going to be used in a space station or space shuttle?
 
  • #3
The elevator is a tether, likely of unspooled carbon nanoribbons connecting sea level Earth with a satellite or counterweight floating in geosynchronous orbit. Flying vehicles or space stations could dock to its port in space. Check the first link in my first post for more information.
 
  • #4
5. How would you store the energy gained from the fall of a payload? On what order would that energy be? Would graphene supercapacitors be appropriate? If it is large enough, could we just push the electricity directly into the grid, or use the activation energy as a catalyst for extremely high energy chemical reactions, or nuclear fusion reactors? What type of structure would be necessary in order to pull something up a second space elevator (or the same one even), simultaneously?

Some people I talked to suggested beaming power to a solar panel would be easiest. That has a 0.5% efficiency with today's technology, according to Wikipedia.

Perhaps boats could dock near the base of the elevator in order to charge their supercapacitors.
 
  • #5
I went and checked since you said that. Turns out I think I read it on a different site!

But this Wikipedia article on space-based solar power made me realize its more complex than that. The density of the atmosphere is always changing with altitude and weather.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power

This source also says (with a citation):
"Between 1969 and 1975, Bill Brown was technical director of a JPL Raytheon program that beamed 30 kW of power over a distance of 1-mile (1.6 km) at 84% efficiency."
 
  • #6
Here's a feasibility study of one particular design of the space elevator that you might find useful:
http://www.mill-creek-systems.com/HighLift/contents.html
http://www.mill-creek-systems.com/HighLift/

It goes over material requirements and proposes some climber designs and power transfer.
There isn't all that much about the physics there, but even what is there should help, as you appear to have some misconceptions. E.g. you need a much longer cable than 25Mm (maybe you meant miles?) - basically you need to have its neutral point at the radius of the geostationary orbit. Any length of the cable further out will pull the cable outwards, anything closer will pull it inwards.
 
  • #8

Related to How Can We Harness the Power of Space Elevators and Atmospheric Electricity?

1. How does a space elevator work?

A space elevator is a proposed method of transporting people and cargo from the surface of a planet to space. It consists of a long cable anchored to the surface of the planet and extending into space, with a counterweight at the end to keep the cable taut. Vehicles would travel up and down the cable using electric motors or other propulsion systems.

2. What materials would be used to build a space elevator?

The most commonly proposed material for a space elevator cable is carbon nanotubes, due to their incredible strength and low weight. Other materials that have been suggested include graphene, diamond nanothreads, and high-strength polymers. Significant research is still needed to develop a material that is strong and light enough to support the weight of the elevator.

3. How long would a space elevator be?

The length of a space elevator would depend on the size and mass of the planet it is being built on. For Earth, the cable would need to be approximately 36,000 kilometers long to reach geostationary orbit, where the pull of gravity is balanced by the centrifugal force of the Earth's rotation. For smaller planets or moons, the length would be shorter.

4. What are the potential benefits of a space elevator?

A space elevator could greatly reduce the cost and environmental impact of launching objects into space. It would also make space travel more accessible and affordable, potentially opening up new opportunities for research and exploration. Additionally, a space elevator could be used for power generation through the use of solar panels attached to the cable.

5. What are the major challenges in designing a space elevator?

There are several major challenges that must be overcome in order to successfully design and build a space elevator. These include developing a material strong enough to support the weight of the elevator, finding a way to keep the cable taut and stable in the face of high winds and other environmental factors, and ensuring the safety and reliability of the elevator for human and cargo transport. Additionally, significant funding and international cooperation would be required for such a large-scale and ambitious project.

Similar threads

Replies
4
Views
633
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
8
Views
2K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
21
Views
2K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
2
Replies
52
Views
4K
  • Aerospace Engineering
Replies
2
Views
7K
Replies
13
Views
4K
  • Sticky
  • Aerospace Engineering
2
Replies
48
Views
61K
Replies
28
Views
9K
  • Aerospace Engineering
2
Replies
45
Views
9K
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
Replies
7
Views
3K
Back
Top