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Japanese researchers pave way for solar energy in space

Though it was only 10 kilowatts, scientists say the demonstration promises the possibility of bigger and better feats.

By Brooks Hays
Japanese researchers have wirelessly transferred energy in a major breakthrough for the future of solar power in space. Image by KPG_Payless/Shutterstock
Japanese researchers have wirelessly transferred energy in a major breakthrough for the future of solar power in space. Image by KPG_Payless/Shutterstock

TOKYO, March 13 (UPI) -- The quest to capture solar energy in space is less of a fairy tale after a major scientific breakthrough in Japan. Researchers with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries successfully transmitted energy wirelessly.

Using microwaves, scientists delivered 10 kilowatts across a 1,640-foot gap. The energy, shot through the air, was delivered with pinpoint accuracy, captured by a small receiver -- the successful transmission signaled by an LED light.

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The gap was relatively small, compared to the distance between low Earth orbit and the planet's surface. The electricity received was just enough to power a small electric water-boiling kettle, but scientists say the demonstration promises the possibility of bigger and better feats.

"Wireless power transmission technology aims to eliminate the cable connections conventionally necessary for transmitting electricity," officials wrote in a company news release, "and the newly successful test results lead the way to applying the technology in numerous terrestrial fields."

The specific control system technology, the system that governs the transmission and aiming of the microwave beam, is being referred to by MHI researchers as "radio emission technology."

The test was successfully completed at the company's Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, with funding assistance from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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