U.S. researchers have demonstrated the first long-range, free-space power beaming system which transmits energy through free space with laser technology.
The three-day-long tech demonstration was conducted at the David Taylor Model Basin at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Maryland by researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and PowerLight Technologies.
PowerLight Technologies is the hardware provider for the power beaming demonstration called Power Transmitted Over Laser (PTROL) project.
The system consisted of two 13-foot-high towers, one a 2-kilowatt laser transmitter, the other a receiver of specially designed photovoltaics. The laser that was beaming 400 watts of power across 325 meters, from the transmitter to the receiver, was invisible to the naked eye.
On one end of the of the testing facility — one of the largest test facilities for model ships in the world — the receiver was converting the laser energy to DC power, which an inverter was turning into AC power to run lights, several laptops, and a coffeemaker that the organizers were using to make coffee for the attendees, or “laser lattes.”
“Power beaming, the concept, has been around for decades and there’ve been laboratory demonstrations, but this is really a first and a new technology that’s getting fielded,” explained Tom Nugent, Chief Technology Officer of PowerLight Technologies.
The culmination of the PTROL project’s second phase, the demonstration was two years in the making for PowerLight and Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer with the NRL. During a briefing that preceded the demo, Jaffe had described that day’s demonstration as historic.
Early power beaming demonstrations took place in 1975, the first in Waltham, Massachusetts in the laboratories of Raytheon, and the second at the Goldstone Station of the Nasa Deep Space Network in California.