Retrieving Energy from the Moon

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Plains of solar panels may soon appear on the Moon. They will accumulate  solar energy and send it to the Earth. This is a joint project of Russian scientists from the Siberian Institute of Semiconductor Physics and Houston University in the USA.

Alternative energy sources have become real rivals to traditional ones. Last year the USA began the construction of the largest complex of solar power plants in the world, which will allow doubling the volume of all currently produced “clean” energy. Russia is also aware that oil and gas deposits are limited. Apart from that, harnessing energy from oil and gas creates products that pollute the atmosphere. On the contrary, solar energy does not give rise to any of these problems. Solar batteries do not need any fuel and can work off internal resources. 

They are practically immune from mechanical wear and do not require expensive maintenance, save for maybe dusting the battery surface from time to time. There is one drawback, though: solar batteries on the Earth do not work round-the-clock, they turn off at night and yield little energy on cloudy days. The solution is to station them on the Moon where the sun shines uninterruptedly and  there is no dust, mud or clouds, says Oleg Pcheliakov, the director of the Institute of Semiconductor Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where the joint Russian-American project is being implemented. 

“If we manage to build a station there, which will move along the Moon surface on caterpillar tracks and melt the thin outer layer of the soil, creating effective solar batteries, we will be able to construct a large power plant on the Moon. It will produce electric power from solar light. It is not only human settlements on the Moon, which  will become springboards for flights to remote planets, that will be able to use the energy but also here on Earth, regions with little solar radiation where there are no means to build transmission lines.”

Solar panels intended to work on the Moon will be made of a material which does not yet exist: special semiconducting crystals. Scientists of the two countries are going  to grow them in a vacuum laboratory that will be specially built. And a laser beam will transmit solar energy to the Earth.

Scientists do not yet know when power plants on the Moon will be built. Nevertheless, it is necessary to act promptly. “The future of all vacuum-compatible technologies lies in their relocation to space, - says the director of the Institute of Semiconductor Physics. – How soon it will happen will depend on the development of manned space flights”.

Prices for oil and gas are growing at present and those for solar panels are falling. By expert estimates, these prices will meet in 2015-2020. Then solar panel plains on the Moon will become necessary, as harnessing energy through them will prove far more profitable.

Source: The Voice of Russia

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