Wednesday, April 27, 2005

melting moon dust into solar panels: fueling the first base

scientists from the university of houston have developed a way to melt acres of lunar soil into solar energy receptive panels, which could one day fuel a space station on the moon. the moon has all of the materials needed for primitive solar panels, including silicon and all of the necessary metals. alex freundlich of the university of houston used a mixture of soil similar to that found on the moon, and has already successfully simulated the experiment, making other nasa scientists optimistic about the idea.

traditional solar panels convert about 17% of the sun's energy striking them into energy, and while freundlich's simulated experiment only allowed a 1% conversion, scientists are optimistic that this can be ramped up to about 5-10%, making the option feasable. some scientists project that a created base could be ready for human inhabitation as early as sometime between 2015-2020 (though perhaps for only short periods of inhabitation at first).

the greatest potential for moon energy, however, may not be just for space stations. alex freundlich, some of his colleagues, and physicist david criswell believe that this technology could one day be used to convert much of the moon's surface into solar paneling with robotic moon rovers, eventually beaming the energy back to earth by microwave. about 13,000 terawatts of energy falls on the moon, about 100 times the amount of energy used on earth, and by harvesting just a fraction of this we could create cheap and unlimited power for all.

full article at enn news

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