How do we know how much energy the sun sheds on us? Do we measure it or have we calculated it? How could we know we’d measured all the energy? (Here’s an article on this very thing, and is where the featured image originated [as far as I know]).
How could we extract 100% of it? We’d have to do the same thing as triple junction photovoltaic cells, but even moreso. For one thing, concentrating light like that results in a lot of heat that gets in the way. Can this heat be used? It is certainly part of the energy coming from the sun. Harness it to sustain something by sucking it out through a coolant. I’d like a piezoelectric material that melts as it gets hot and generates current as it expands and contracts as the current flows out of it and cools as it contracts. So it would always be on the verge of melting and solidifying, generating current which is equivalent to contracting which is equivalent to cooling which is equivalent to absorbing heat.
Of course, I’m just making all this up. I’ll even keep going. Perhaps by getting closer to capturing 100% of the energy of the sun we will actually serve to create a current between the sun and ourselves, and it will strike us with some lightning bolt that we would really rather have avoided.
Oh Icarus, oh Archetype, oh Electromagnetism, oh Fertile Imagination.
Maybe there’s some other kinds of energy in sun-radiance too. Do we have a surefire way of measuring all energy? I’d be really surprised if we do. You could say you could measure it by heating water with it. But any microwave will show that what heats water may not heat something else. Not all forms of energy is as good at heating matter as others (it’d sure take a lot of neutrinos to boil a cup of coffee). It seems to me we would have to use a bunch of different devices and then add it all together. How do we know we aren’t missing a device? How do we know how reliable our devices are in measuring their own events? I mean, “About 65 billion (6.5×1010) solar neutrinos per second pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun in the region of the Earth.” (Neutrino) I wonder, do all the neutrinos that go into the earth come back out the other side?
Who knows, maybe the sun’s rays gots kinds of ergs that are best detected miles underneath the surface of our good earth, down where the gold boils up.