After a disaster, damaged hydropower infrastructure can turn a local crisis into a national catastrophe. “When typhoons and earthquakes bring down utility infrastructure, those events can turn into catastrophes,” Kasmi said. “When lights go out for night-time rescue operations or critical facilities such as hospitals and telecommunications systems shut down, power system failures can hinder recovery efforts.”
Energy transmission, which transmits energy in the form of wireless beams through aerial platforms, could significantly improve the ability of first responders to find and rescue survivors in emergency situations. Electricity transmission can help get energy systems up and running long before damaged utility infrastructure can be repaired.
“While innovations such as solar-powered communication tools have helped, the prospect of having portable, pop-up energy devices that can generate electricity or plug into functional grid infrastructure will transform humanitarian recovery,” Kasmi explained.
Power emitted by the laser
Defined as point-to-point power transfer via directed electromagnetic beams, energy transfer It can be done with lasers or microwaves. While microwave-based methods have a longer track record, laser-based methods have shown promise in recent trials and demonstrations. Laser-based power emission has the advantage of being more narrowly focused, allowing for smaller transmit and receiver mounts.
Laser beams take electrical power from readily available sources, use a laser to convert it to light, and project it through open air (also known as “free space”) or through fiber optics. On the receiving end, specialized solar cells matched to the laser’s wavelength convert the intense light back into electricity.
“Power beaming has the potential to help solve challenges such as providing internet and connectivity to people in remote locations without the need for traditionally built power grids or infrastructure,” Kasmi said, explaining why the technology is a focus of DERC. “As the world braces for more frequent extreme weather events, it could significantly boost post-disaster humanitarian assistance.”
As climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events and temperatures, there is no shortage of demand. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian swept across the southeastern United States, leaving 5.1 million homes and businesses Without power, some last five days or more.During Pakistan’s summer monsoon floods, authorities saute Protect power stations and grids. September 2022, Philippine typhoon Nauru leaves Millions of people without electricity. Even localized disasters can wreak havoc on the energy system, such as the severe icing in Slovenia in 2014, which made 250,000 people Power was out for up to 10 days due to damage to utility infrastructure.
Kasmi said there are still technical hurdles to overcome in power transfer, such as finding ways to support longer distances and improve efficiency. An aggressive public education campaign is also needed to dispel fears or unfounded health concerns about laser technology. Still, power transfer has the potential to be a powerful new capability, supporting humanity’s response to more extreme natural disasters within a century.
While improvements in directed-energy technologies often receive attention in areas ranging from navigating self-driving cars to powering low-orbit satellites, their humanitarian applications may prove to be most transformative. Ground-penetrating radar and laser-based energy emission are just two examples of the use of directed energy to aid humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery, with the potential to improve the safety, health and lives of millions of people around the world.
This article was produced by Insights, the custom content division of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.