Electric Cars and Solar Space Stations

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The great inventor Nikola Tesla once envisioned a world of unlimited wireless access to electricity. In 2017, scientists at Stanford University nearly achieved Tesla’s dreams by creating a new method of wirelessly transmitting electricity to nearby moving objects. The technology works by sending electricity through wires which create an oscillating magnetic field. This field then causes a nearby coil’s electrons to oscillate, essentially transmitting the electricity wirelessly. There are limitations to the functional frequencies of oscillation, but this method was a significant improvement upon previous methods of wireless charging because it can transmit power between moving objects.

The reason this technology is important today has to do with our increasingly dangerous usage of fossil fuels in transportation and energy production. The technology could have significant implications in bringing about a more eco-friendly world where electric vehicles are the norm and solar energy is the most common form of power.

Because it can target moving objects, this tech has a large potential in the world of electric cars, as the biggest obstacle currently impeding the growth of electric car usage is the lack of charging stations. As of 2018, the US had about 22,000 public electric vehicle charging stations and about 168,000 conventional gasoline stations. The lack of charging stations in places like America makes it difficult for individuals to justify buying electric vehicles and in turn, makes it difficult for companies to justify selling them. By employing this technology though, the need for charging stations may even be eradicated entirely, as cars could be charged while moving through the ground they are driving on. As of now, the range at which the Stanford scientists have been able to transmit electricity is nearly sufficient for the purpose of charging moving vehicles from the ground, but the amount of power transmitted is minimal. If they are able to scale this design and increase the amount of transmitted electricity, a world of predominantly electric vehicles could become a reality sooner than expected.

Additionally, this technology has potential uses in an ambitious Chinese project to build a solar space station. China’s Academy of Space Technology plans to launch an orbital power plant which would harness solar energy from the sun. Because it would be orbiting the Earth, the space station would not be affected by terrestrial weather, making it marginally more efficient than Earth-based solar plants. The glaring issue facing orbital solar station concepts is the challenge of getting the harnessed solar energy back to Earth, but this wireless transfer method may provide the solution. Even so, it is just a minuscule start at transferring energy between a satellite and Earth, as both the range and electrical capacity of the technique must be increased to do so.

The prospect of using this tech in electric vehicles and in solar power space stations makes it a large step forward in an eco-friendly direction. If electric vehicles can become more widespread, CO2 emissions will decrease drastically. Continuous solar power from space would also provide a clean and renewable source of energy which would mitigate further usage of fossil fuels. As such, the tech could have huge implications in environmentally friendly energy consumption practices which humanity so desperately needs right now.

Overall, the wireless transmission technique created by the Stanford scientists poses a great benefit to the electric vehicle industry, as well as large orbital solar power projects. In order to implement this technology in these fields, the range and energy capacity of the tech must be improved, but hopes are high for this technology and its potential uses.

Photo via http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/when-will-electric-cars-go-mainstream/

About the author

Kartik is a new sophomore at St. Mark’s School. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and is a boarding student. He enjoys rowing, watching movies, and reading about current events. He is a member of St. Mark’s A Capella and enjoys singing for the school choir. In his free time, Kartik likes to work out with friends. This year, Kartik hopes to be a thoughtful contributor to the Parkman Post and create content which highlights unique perspectives on the news.

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