Scientists Have a Plan to Harvest Energy From Black Holes
Could black holes be harvested to power future off-planet colonies? It sounds – and in some ways it certainly is – pretty far-fetched. However, according to researchers from Columbia University and the Chilean Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, this is also possible. At least in theory.
“Imagine two pieces of charged matter around a rotating black hole,” Felipe Asenjo, professor of physics at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, told Digital Trends. “When they’re in the right place and pushed apart at a speed close to the speed of light, one part falls into the black hole while the other gains energy that exits it.”
The idea is essentially to extract energy from black holes by collecting charged plasma particles that try to escape the event horizon. This threshold surrounds a black hole, where the escape speed is greater than the speed of light. To put it even broader, the researchers believe that it would be possible to extract energy directly from the curvature of space-time. (And you thought your new solar panels were exciting!)
“For natural practical purposes, we can think that this process drives the very energetic phenomena observed around black [holes]”Asenjo continued.” But for artificial practical purposes one can think of the huge black hole [could be] a source of almost unlimited energy. If we restore the separation of the two parts of charged matter, we can obtain [this] Energy.”
So far, so theoretically
Luca Comisso, a research fellow at Columbia University, noted that all of this has been very theoretical so far. “We worked out the math using the theoretical frameworks of general relativity and plasma physics,” Comisso told Digital Trends. “In essence, what we found is that reconnecting magnetic field lines near the black hole’s event horizon can extract the black hole’s energy. Indeed, under these conditions, reconnection can create negative energy particles that will draw energy from the black hole as they fall into the event horizon. “
In order to prove the robustness of this energy extraction system, the researchers are next planning numerical simulations with supercomputers. Asenjo found that the system being modeled is so complex that it takes tremendous computational skills to fully examine it. Fortunately, such technology exists.
What does not yet exist are some of the other tools that the hypothetical advanced civilization that might require it will hopefully one day develop. In other words, don’t expect this to be demonstrated in real time anytime soon. However, Comisso cautioned against writing it off as impossible.
“This is of course a technological challenge, but as a history of mankind [teaches] What is impossible today could be possible tomorrow, ”he said. “So I’m pretty optimistic.”
An article describing the work was published in the journal Nature Physics.