A professor from the University of Alabama has patented a revolutionary space-based laser system designed to generate and deliver energy to a nearby spacecraft. Dr. Richard Fork thinks his new innovation could even be used as the first line of defence in the event of a potential asteroid collision with the Earth.
“I see this patent as a useful step in making efficient and effective power infrastructures available to the regions of space surrounding an asteroid or planet orbiting a star,” Dr. Fork said. “The patent is significant in that it gives UAH an advantage in launching what may be the first enterprise designed to provide energy generated in space and delivered in space for commercial purposes, as well as for non-commercial applications of general interest, such as successfully redirecting asteroids or other objects that may threaten Earth.”
“This method is designed to use optical phenomena – again quantum optical phenomena – but very well proven and widely accepted optical quantum phenomena to maximize the efficiency and precision of the processes,” he added. “Sunlight does, of course, distribute energy in space. However, energy in the form of sunlight cannot be directed, delivered or concentrated nearly as precisely and efficiently, or at the peak energies that are maximally efficient for propulsive thrust, as can the coherent light generated by laser systems.“
According to Dr. Fork, the technology is ready to be deployed, and could be of great interest to NASA, which funded the original concept, and Elon Musk’s private space enterprise, SpaceX.
“The underlying physical phenomena are non-trivial,” says Dr. Fork. “However, we believe we can clarify and evaluate a highly productive strategy we have in mind by exploring the basic phenomena here in our terrestrial laboratories at UAH given a year or so of adequate funding. I think that SpaceX and other companies might be interested in this patent although that is speculation on my part at this time.”
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