DARPA, the American defense agency, is working on a leap forward in energy distribution: the creation of a “wireless energy internet” for the wireless transmission of energy anywhere, at the speed of light.
The objective of the program named Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay (POWER) is to design and use “flying transmitters”. Systems that move in the sky to accelerate the passage of energy through laser beams.
An incredible advance towards long-range energy transmission that will later (in the civilian sphere) give us multi-path wireless energy networks.
Internet of energy
From abundant energy sources (mega wind systems offshore? Future reactors to fusion like ITER?) to voracious consumers. “The military faces particularly acute energy challenges,” the colonel says Paul Calhoun, POWER program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. “We often have to operate far from established energy infrastructure and rely on liquid fuels that require precarious supply lines.”
The research underway aims to put aside long energy backbones, long-range fuel ships and all those heavy and expensive systems that are used to power military operations.
In their place, a series of "flying platforms" for transmitting energy to vehicles capable of receiving it, a bit like one would receive a radio transmission.
Where have I heard this before?
Many (I anticipate the comments) will think of the research in this field made by the scholar and inventor Nikola Tesla. The Serbian genius also designed a system to send wireless energy anywhere in the world, to be received with a sort of "antenna".
The difference was that the transmission medium for Tesla it would have been the same earth's ionosphere, capable of making energy "deliver" us everywhere in the form of electromagnetic waves.
In the case of DARPA, the ionosphere is replaced by aircraft that receive and transmit energy as they move across the sky.
Energy transmission with “laser planes”: will it work?
Everything suggests yes.
A transmission of this type may seem "exotic", but it respects the exact same physics used in wireless communication.
“Take an energy source: convert the energy produced into a propagation wave, typically electromagnetic. You send it through free space, collect it through a receiver and then convert it back into electricity,” summarizes Calhoun.
It seems simple, but if the most important military scientific structure in the world is still there 120 years after Tesla, there must be a reason.
And it's all "structural". Conversion efficiency is still a huge challenge. Systems of this type end up having a monstrous dispersion, which multiplies by how many "nodes" there are in a hypothetical energy internet.
That's what challenges are for
DARPA plans to reduce dispersion with these unmanned aircraft that would act as "relays" in the sky to transport energy in a more effective and targeted way.
History shows us how man has always tried to improve the transmission and distribution systems of goods and energy. The roads of Ancient Rome, then the railways, then in-flight refueling and the other systems we know. “Dematerializing” energy is the next challenge.