- Patent pending step variation of a “sandwich” module.
- Sandwich module receives solar energy on one side with a photovoltaic panel, electronics in the middle convert that direct current to a radiofrequency, and the other side has an antenna to beam power away.
- The architecture of the “step” design opens up the sandwich to look more like a zig-zag. This allows heat to radiate more efficiently, so the module can receive greater concentrations of sunlight without overheating.
- Small size and light components control costs of launching mass in space.
Opportunities for Commercial/Government Application
- Space Solar Power Satellite: hundreds of sandwich modules could be launched into space, and then assembles into a satellite array using robots. Could provide base-load power for a military installation or a city—even on a cloudy day, even at night. Step module a unique solution for preventing problem of electronics overheating.
- Testing for space hardware:satellites could use reflectors to concentrate energy on fewer photovoltaic panels, potentially reducing the number needed to meet energy requirement. NRL has vacuum tube asset and experience validating inventions in space-like conditions.
- Large phased-array radars: concept of building large structures in space from modules. The image quality of a radar is related to how big the antennas are and how much power the radar puts out; with many antennas, each powered by the sun, a huge and heavy bundle of wires that spreads out to each one is no longer required.
- Stratosphere Solar Power: instead of deploying module to space, could redesign for a very high altitude in the stratosphere.
- Other applications include the conversion of direct current to radiofrequency, microwave power beaming (including as first demonstrated in 1964 to power an aircraft), satellite propulsion, and thermal management architecture.
- Energy security for military: Department of Defense (DoD) has demonstrated commitment to energy security investments, including solar power for installations, Experimental Forward Operating Bases, and humanitarian assistance.
- Reliable, sustainable power for cities: The International Academy of Astronautics has predicted space solar power could be viable within 30 years. In 2009, the California utility company, PG&E, committed to buying such power from Solaren by 2016.
- International: two other projects have built modules in Japan (not tested in space, less efficient than NRL); Russia, China, India, and some European countries also interested.
US Published Patent is available for License to companies with commercial interest. Collaborative research and development is available under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).
Dr. Paul Jaffe, Spacecraft Engineering, NRL
U.S. Published Patent No. 20130099599A1: “Thermally Efficient Power Conversion Modules for Space Solar Power” published on 4/25/2013 on behalf of Paul L. Jaffe, Michael W. Nurnberger, Michael A. Brown
- P. Jaffe, J. McSpadden, “Energy Conversion and Transmission Modules for Space Solar Power,” Proc. IEEE, vol.101, no.6, pp.1424-1437, June 2013.
- P. I. Jaffe, “A Sunlight to Microwave Power Transmission Module Prototype for Space Solar Power,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, United States, 2013.
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