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First Black Hole For Light Created On Earth 244

An anonymous reader writes "An electromagnetic 'black hole' that sucks in surrounding light has been built for the first time. The device, which works at microwave frequencies, may soon be extended to trap visible light, leading to an entirely new way of harvesting solar energy to generate electricity. A theoretical design for a table-top black hole to trap light was proposed in a paper published earlier this year by Evgenii Narimanov and Alexander Kildishev of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Their idea was to mimic the properties of a cosmological black hole, whose intense gravity bends the surrounding space-time, causing any nearby matter or radiation to follow the warped space-time and spiral inwards."
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First Black Hole For Light Created On Earth

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  • by jcochran ( 309950 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:13AM (#29756029)

    But I have definite issues with the last paragraph of the article

    Such a device could be used to harvest solar energy in places where the light is too diffuse for mirrors to concentrate it onto a solar cell. An optical black hole would suck it all in and direct it at a solar cell sitting at the core. "If that works, you will no longer require these huge parabolic mirrors to collect light," says Narimanov.

    The article gives no indication that light passing near the device will get sucked into it, but only that all light hitting the device gets sucked into the center. So instead of requiring those huge parabolic mirrors, you'll instead require these huge cylindrical structures. Would still have a nice advantage in that no tracking or steering devices would be required since light hitting it from any side gets "sucked in", but it would still require a considerable amount of real estate to deploy assuming that they can both scale it down (to handle visible light) and scale it up (to make the amount of light absorbed represent a non-trivial amount of power).

  • plants (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:19AM (#29756103)

    The interesting thing to me is that the molecule plants use for photosynthesis has some spiral-like structures. Those could be guiding visible light in the same way.

    Not that that helps solar power's number one problem, which is energy storage.

  • I am curious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by badass fish ( 1254730 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:23AM (#29756163)
    i wonder if they checked for gravity/mass/time disturbances?
  • by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:40AM (#29756421)

    I doubt it would be cheaper to make, but a mirror reflects light from one direction and if you have concave shape focuses that light at a certain point, but for that to work the light has to be entering from the right direction relative to the focus point (normal straight in the front but doesn't necessarily have to be

    This system would work regardless of which direction the light enters from, which means it works under very difuse light source. It also means you don't need a tracking system to keep the mirror at the right angle relative to the sun which would make installation and maintenance costs lower than a tracking mirror system.

  • Re:First priority. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @09:54AM (#29756581)

    Simply call it "Electromagnetic Sponge"

  • Re:First priority. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:01AM (#29756651)

    First priority: Install one above every street light so we can get our lovely speckled black skies back. :)

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @11:35AM (#29758063) Homepage

    Are we looking at the next generation of stealth technology?

  • Re:wrong canon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @11:43AM (#29758165) Homepage Journal

    I believe elrous0 was referring to the timeline of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, wherein all the dolphins leave Earth just before the Vogons destroy it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 15, 2009 @12:50PM (#29759091)
    The parabolic mirrors only work for light that is essentially parallel - they don't help with diffuse light, for example during cloud cover. The back hole device would still work with clouds covering the sun and harvest all the light that still reaches the ground (which may still be a significant fraction of the energy of the uncovered sun), while a parabolic mirror is essentially worthless in this situation.

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