MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Is it possible to draw electric power directly from solar winds?

Date: Tue Jun 13 08:48:38 2000
Posted By: Michael Martin-Smith, Other (pls. specify below), Family Physician, Fellow,BIS, amateur astronomer( BAA), British Interplanetary Society
Area of science: Physics
ID: 960727975.Ph

In a sense yes ; it was tried with the Italian tether experiment flown
on a Shuttle mission in 1992, when a 1 kilometre tether briefly drew 1
kilowatt of energy from ionised atoms in the upper ionosphere. The main
problem at present has been sturdy and reliable deployment of the tether
wire, but that is another issue
The aurora itself is essentially wild and unpredictable and so would
pose problems of reliability and controllability of supply- rather like
using very gusty winds for wind power
 Greater energy yields would be available in the van Allen charged
particle belts- but these would present obvious biological hazards. Now
perhaps a very long tether could draw down power from the van Allen
Belts for a LEO facility such as a space station.
Michael Martin-Smith

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