White Elephant in Space?
Many view the International Space Station(“Solar-powered space station,” PhotonicsSpectra, July, p. 36), as a $150 billion“white elephant” in space that has suckedresources from many other more worthwhile programs – construction that wassaid to have been created in part to provide jobs for out-of-work ex-Soviet nuclear scientists so they would not run offand give atom bombs to rogue states.
That it needs 32,800 solar cells is nobrag. The same job could have been donewith a plutonium energy cell the size of ahome computer box, and it would not berelying on the sun to function.
A solar fraud?
In the July issue of Photonics Spectra Iread “Solar from space” (page 35). Thisconcept is a complete fraud to get moneyfor nonsense.
First, why is it so necessary to sendpower to Earth from space? Do we nothave enough from fossils or other sources?
One reason given is that it is often cloudy,so solar power plants cannot generateenough power.
If you look at pictures of the globe sentfrom a Meteo geostationary satellite, youcan easily see that only about one-eighthof the half-globe is covered by clouds.
This means that the remaining seven-eighths has unlimited solar irradiation, andwe have terrestrial power networks totransport the generated power around theglobe.
Next, consider that solar cells are quiteinefficient; today’s best are at about 15percent, and they age in space. Satellitedesigners know better. In my opinion,heating water is more efficient, and it isdone in California, Arizona, Spain, Japanand elsewhere without rocket technology.
Then there’s the issue of energy loss aspower is transmitted to Earth. Anyonewho has heard about electromagneticwaves knows that the power decreases dueto propagation in proportion to inversesquare. In a power distribution, a “good”efficiency is more than 80 percent. Theexperts claim that the power will be focused and collected by huge antennas. Atypical good satellite antenna has about 50percent efficiency. And the free-spacepower loss at 2.45 GHz over 35,000 km is~190 dB, otherwise 1020. What kind ofpower efficiency can you expect?
Finally, I have asked some of the experts how to get those wonderful antennasthat amplify power. I would use them inmicrowave and millimeter-wave communication systems. Nobody has responded.All this is a hoax and pure fantasy, andmoreover not based on natural laws. Thosespace solar concepts are pure nonsense.
Jiri PolivkaSanta Barbara, Calif.
As a science writer, I cover subjects that Ithink will be of interest to our readers andmake no claims as to the success of atechnology or marketing concept. We do,however, appreciate readers keeping usinformed of the many issues surroundingsuch a controversial topic.
I read with great interest Caren B. Les’
article in the July issue on p. 28: “Image
sensor market: Looking forward to better
times.” I am curious about a statement in
your article: “A third generation of devices
based on polymeric thin films … also
could be developed.”
Are there companies or start-ups in this
Erik BodegomProfessor of PhysicsChairman, Department of Physics
Portland State UniversityPortland, Ore.
I’m not sure of any companies that might
be involved, but think PARC [Palo Alto
Research Center] and the University of
California, Santa Barbara, might be work-
ing on polymer-based image sensors.
Charles E. Spear