A flying carpet-like surface measuring 3.5 square miles has been proposed by Caltech researchers to harness solar energy in space, and beam it down to Earth.
In recent years, wind turbines and solar panels have become increasingly common. Nevertheless, these are not our only options. Now, a group of researchers at Caltech wants to harness the sun’s power in space. And to do this, they want to create a massive, carpet-like spacecraft with a diameter of around 3.5 square miles. This device would essentially act as one huge solar panel in space. Researchers at Caltech are developing modular spacecraft that capture sunlight, transform it into electricity, and beam it back to Earth.
Caltech researchers are developing a constellation of modular spacecraft for the Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP). This would collect sunlight and converts it into electricity. It would then be able to transmit it wherever it is needed wirelessly. This includes places where power is currently unavailable or limited. The Caltech Division of Engineering and Applied Science’s Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Harry Atwater, says the project is extraordinary and unprecedented. Achieving clean and affordable energy for all is one of the most significant challenges of our time. However, it requires boldness and ambition. The project is led jointly by Atwater, who is also the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science. Additionally, two other researchers are involved in the project. Ali Hajimiri, and Sergio Pellegrino.
A flying carpet
A four-inch by four-inch tile weighing less than a tenth of an ounce will be the basic unit of the system. As a result of the fusion of hundreds of thousands of these tiles, a flying carpet-like surface measuring 3.5 square miles could be created that would capture sunlight. More than $100 million has been invested in the SSPP by Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Company and Caltech life member, and his wife, Brigitte Bren, a Caltech trustee. Initial feasibility studies were funded by Northrup Grumman Corporation. As the project approaches a milestone: a test launch of prototypes into space in December 2022, Atwater, Hajimiri, and Pellegrino discussed the project’s progress and the transformative potential of space-based solar power. Find out more by clicking here.