Read this article on College News titled “Dyson-Harrop satellites: The answer to the energy crisis?” On reading the entire article I understood that 2 Washington State University Scientists Brooks L. Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch were proposing that a solar wind power satellite that could be an answer to the world’s energy crisis.
Wondering what is “Solar Wind”? I did too! The solar wind is a stream of energized, charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, flowing outward from the Sun, through the solar system at speeds as high as 900 km/s and at a temperature of 1 million degrees (Celsius).
Harrop and Schulze-Makuch suggest using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide (5,220-mile-wide) solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind, the team hopes their concept could generate 1 billion billion giga Watts of power, far more power than humanity needs — if they can get that power back to Earth.
Concept of the Dyson Sphere has been around for 50 years, the scientists do not consider it a pragmatic solution, as it requires excessive matter to create and too much energy to stabilize. The technology needed to realize such a device is far beyond what we are capable of at this time.
What is the Dyson-Harrop (DH) satellite?
DH satellites use electrons from solar winds to generate energy, and then use photons from the sun to eject the used electrons. It’s best said by Harrop and Schulze-Makuch, “DH satellites can be produced to collect any amount of power desired, up to the total energy of the Sun.”
What are its pros and cons?
- Easy to manufacture and it is made almost entirely of copper with no circuitry. The copper would capture electrons flowing out from the sun.
- Modeling suggests it is an effective generator – modeling suggests that the DHS can provide power at a rate that increases proportionally to the square of current through the Main Wire.
- Even large satellites have a minimal impact on the Sun’s solar wind output.
- They believe it may be possible to design a satellite that can remain in a stationary position.
- Compared to the Dyson sphere, the DHS generates power at a fairly low rate.
- Initially it could be used to power the space station or satellites, rather than the earth.
- The simplicity of the DHS could also be its downfall – this model possesses no method of protecting itself from debris or actively maintaining its position.
- Heat dissipation could also be an issue.
- Distributing power – Right now they are looking at existing laser technology to transmit power to a collector on earth, the accuracy from that large a distance allows for very little error in aiming.
- By their own admission they have not made allowances for engineering difficulties.
The idea of a clean energy dependent sustainable lifestyle is mind-blowing! It is fascinating via research new ideas and new horizons keep coming up. Hopefully some day this idea will be feasible enough and create enough energy for the human race to survive.
Brooks L. Harrop and Dirk Schulze-Makuch (2010). The Solar Wind Power Satellite as an alternative to a traditional Dyson Sphere and its implications for remote detection. International Journal of Astrobiology, 9, pp 89-99 doi:10.1017/S1473550410000066