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I, Robot (the book) Solar Energy Gathering anyone?

  1. Jan 17, 2014 #1
    In the i,Robot book -by Issac Asimov- one of the stories mention some sort of satellite for gathering solar energy.

    Basically this satellite will be stationary outside of our orbit, and it will gather solar energy and intensify it into a beam that is transmitted into a base on earth.

    I think it's a brilliant idea/fictional idea, we could amount for earth's rotation by putting some sort of "repeater satellites", you know like the routers, the main harvester sends the beam to the repeater most suitable to hit the base.

    This will provide a 24/7 solar energy source, with much higher potential output -well, if we excluded the losses- than anything we can do to gather solar energy on earth.

    Any problems with this model, other than the chance for things to go slightly off and incinerate earth by mistake =p...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2014 #2
    There is that, and the fact that dumping terawatts of extra energy into Earth's atmosphere will cause *something* to happen - exactly what is not clear. I suppose at some point, a really advanced civilization would have rendered the entire surface of their world artificial anyway...
  4. Jan 17, 2014 #3
    What exactly does that have to do with anything?
  5. Jan 17, 2014 #4
    The main issue here would be the beam of energy being blasted at the Earth. If the entire surface were artificial, we wouldn't have to worry about safety. Depending upon the method of transmission, imagine if this beam were to go astray just a little bit? Especially when the Earth is rotating.
  6. Jan 17, 2014 #5


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    I don't mean to denigrate your idea but it has been discussed here before. Do a forum search. Basically, the consensus was that it is a useless idea because of the losses in power transmission to Earth, combined with the extreme danger of the concept.
  7. Jan 18, 2014 #6
    Well obviously if your entire world is engineered, then you have much less concern with things like trashing the environment - your environment is artificial.
    Since our current world is not, and we are relatively dependent on the environment, it would behoove us not to trash it ignorantly.
  8. Jan 18, 2014 #7


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    There is actually an enormous amount of work that has been done on this topic, even though it has fallen off the radar screen.
    The incoming power beam is controlled through a phased array which relies on feedback from the ground to stay in phase. When something interferes with the feedback, such as an airplane flying into the beam, phasing is lost and the beam blooms rather than stay in focus.
    NASA had some very pertinent seminars on this topic at their Glenn Research Lab in Ohio, with some of the proceedings published under the rubric of 'Radiant Energy Conversion from Space'.
    The idea that we should just tap the sun directly rather than burning fossil or bio fuels seems pretty attractive.
    The glitch is the space engineering involved is really difficult. Microwave power transmission is relatively the simplest, but mandates many square miles of receiver antennas. Optical systems are way more compact, but correspondingly more demanding to build. It is a generation long project to bring about, probably beyond the attention span of the modern societies.
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