Beaming Clean Energy From Space
Once considered science fiction, technology capable of collecting solar power in space and beaming it to Earth to provide a global supply of clean and affordable energy is moving closer to reality. Through the Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP), a team of Caltech researchers is working to deploy a constellation of modular spacecraft that collect sunlight, transform it into electricity, then wirelessly transmit that electricity wherever it is needed—including to places that currently have no access to reliable power. "This is an extraordinary and unprecedented project," says Harry Atwater, Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science; Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Liquid Sunlight Alliance. "It exemplifies the boldness and ambition needed to address one of the most significant challenges of our time, providing clean and affordable energy to the world." [Caltech story]
Lab Earthquakes Show How Grains at Fault Boundaries Lead to Major Quakes
By simulating earthquakes in a lab, Caltech engineers have provided strong experimental support for a form of earthquake propagation now thought responsible for the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that devastated the coast of Japan in 2011. "Our novel experimental approach has enabled us to look into the earthquake process up close, and to uncover key features of rupture propagation and friction evolution in rock gouge," says Vito Rubino, research scientist and lead author of the Nature paper. The Nature paper is titled "Intermittent lab earthquakes in dynamically weakening fault gouge." Rubino and his co-authors Nadia Lapusta, Lawrence A. Hanson, Jr., Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, show that so-called "stable" or "creeping" faults are not actually immune to major ruptures after all, as previously suspected. [Caltech story]
What Is the Future of Wind Energy?
Humans have used windmills to capture the force of the wind as mechanical energy for more than 1,300 years. Unlike early windmills, however, modern wind turbines use generators and other components to convert energy from the spinning blades into a smooth flow of AC electricity. In this video, John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering discusses the future of wind energy technology. [Caltech story]