Monday, December 31, 2007

Solar Spheres

On a busy and darkening evening, I strolled down the streets of Hitec city, Hyderabad. Mammoth buildings, edifices, dazzling office spaces, lounges, non-stop air conditioning machines, ever running computers and servers, and on the whole the entire new city was a giant energy guzzler. As I reached the 13th floor of the service apartment in which I lived then, the entire Hitec city looked like Las Vegas, bleached with glaring lights! - all in a time where we proclaim about carbon control and global warming.

I called it a day as I was tired and retired to bed. But I was annoyed thinking where all this might lead us to. As I closed my eye, my thoughts drifted to a series of abstract possibilities and wired ideas. I wish to share it with all my environment conscious friends (green warriors) though this article.

We all know about super-conducting materials (those with zero resistance to conduction of electricity). What if we were able to make super-reflecting materials? Materials which are ultra efficient than mirrors and thus the quantum of energy impinging on the surface is always equal to the quantum of energy getting reflected. Thus the material remains to be in absolute inertness with respect to Electro Magnetic Waves.

So how would these materials behave?
Well, if you were to keep two super-reflecting mirrors facing each other, and if you were to focus a laser beam onto on of the mirrors for a fraction of a second, the ray of light from the laser would get reflected from mirror A to mirror B and back to A. This way the cycle repeats a number of times.
While in usual cases this series of reflection would die down in a fixed extent of time since the intervening air particles and to a minute extent the mirror surface would absorb the light.
But, when this experiment is conducted in absolute vacuum with super reflecting mirrors, the cycle would become endless, no matter even after millions of years.

Now how will this help us?
Let us construct a hollow sphere whose inner surface is super reflecting. On the north pole of the sphere, there is a unidirectional vent with a lid through which sunlight is allowed to enter for a fraction of a second. Since the space inside the sphere is devoid of air, this quantum of EMW would undergo an endless reflection spree. We could examine this activity if we place a CCD sensor on the south pole of the sphere. Since the CCD sends a pulse of electric current by converting the light which impinges on it, our energy inside the sphere would have a mild time-decay function. If we replace the CCD sensor with a solar cell, we are now generating power!

From a pragmatic propensity
Giant solar spheres can be manufactured in large scale. These structures would have larger uni-directional vents with automatic lids – perhaps of the kind of polaroids. A number of solar cells can be disbursed on the inside of the sphere - just like doping a semi-conductor. These cells would lie under smaller polaroid lids whose outer surface is also super-reflecting. Thus when the smaller lids cover the solar cells, the inside of the sphere is 100% super-reflecting.
Now, during the day time, we would open the top lid of the sphere allowing sun’s rays to enter the sphere close them instantly. Since the smaller polaroid lids cover the solar cells, the light inside the sphere would remain alive to eternity. Then, during the night hours (or during the needy hours) we would like polarize the smaller lids, thus opening the solar cells beneath to face the inside of the sphere. Whenever a quantum of light hits a cell after undergoing eternal reflection, it gets converted to electric current. This way until the last quanta of light is used up, we can generate solar power.

How good is our idea?
On a production scale, solar spheres would require nothing more than a few thousand solar cells, polaroid covers and our new super-reflecting material.
The following are the advantages

  • This method is maintenance free. Since the inside is vacuum, there is no means by which the apparatus could get damaged.
  • The outer shell can be made of steel / concrete as per the convenience and it is an one time investment.
  • There is no wear and tear.
  • The energy is 100 % clean without any emissions. Thus it is the safest source of power.
  • Energy can be generated instantly or could be stored up and generated after a million years too.
  • It is the best way to store electric power. Compared to super-conducting materials which should be maintained at sub zero temperatures, this ultra simple apparatus stores electricity with no loss for endless amount of time.

It’s quite conspicuous that Geo Dexter feels Solar Spheres would be the most feasible solution to our pressing demands of energy.

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