MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Magnified Light Energy

Date: Wed Apr 22 00:29:37 1998
Posted By: Don Pettibone, Other (pls. specify below), Ph.D. in Applied Physics, Quadlux Inc.
Area of science: Physics
ID: 893091119.Ph

I’m not sure what you are asking, but I think I get the drift of your 
question.  If I understand what you are saying, you are asking if you could 
focus light so as to get more energy out of a solar cell than you would get 
without the focusing.  This is certainly possible, as increasing the 
radiant power density will increase the current and hence the power out of 
a solar cell.  Solar power plants that use sunlight to heat a working fluid 
and drive a heat engine always, I think, use reflectors to concentrate the 
sunlight so that higher peak temperatures can be obtained.  So you are 
right in thinking that focusing sunlight is useful in extracting energy 
from light.

However, you refer to something you call “super energy”, and I don’t have a 
clue as to what that means.  Energy is energy.  It comes in lots of forms, 
but in every experiment ever done in the laboratory energy is always 
conserved.  Every succesful physical theory that I know of conserves 
energy.  Most theoretical physicists so strongly believe in this principle 
that when they cook up a new theory one of their first tests is to see if 
it conserves energy, if it doesn’t, they drop it and go on. Now, there are 
some wild and crazy physicists out there who talk about harnessing the non-
zero vacuum energy which permeates space.  Scientific American recently ran 
a feature on this work in the December ‘97 issue, “Exploiting Zero-Point 
Enegy”.  My feeling from reading this is that this is fringe science, but 
this is just a gut feeling.  Maybe there is something to this.  
Cosmologists who worry about how the universe got started from nothing are 
willing to trash energy conservation at the drop of a proposal.

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