Read on to find out how the power electronics landscape is predicted to evolve, 60 years from now.
In this article we’ll take a look at what the power electronics world will hold for us in 2076, from alternative energy sources, to diamond technology and the next generation of GaN and SiC.
Nuclear-powered mustard-seed-sized batteries
Thermoelectric generators have an interesting past. A Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) is a nuclear battery that converts heat into energy. The Mars Science Laboratory Rover has one on Mars right now called the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG). The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, which have left our solar system, are still functioning since their launch in 1977 with an RTG on board as the main power source.
__Figure 1:__ *Here we see a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) (a) and a general purpose heat source (GPHS) module exploded view (b). (Image source: NASA and DOE)*
Of course extreme miniaturisation needs to happen as well as protection of humans from radiation, but by 2076, I predict we will have another efficient, long-lasting source of energy as small as a mustard seed to power electronic circuitry. The small size will certainly be achievable by then since the power draw from 2076 electronic circuitry will be orders of magnitude lower than today’s devices; hence, a very small RTG.
He3 as an energy source
A few years ago, in 2013, I met NASA astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Schmitt was a geologist by trade and collected many rock and soil samples in the last manned mission to the Moon on Apollo 17. We had a very interesting discussion about an unusual element found in great quantities in the lunar soil known as Helium-3 (He3). I predicted that this would be an excellent solution to Earth’s energy problems. It seems many have joined in my prediction since then.
__Figure 2:__ *Moon mining is coming. (Image source: NASA)*
US officials were not interested in Schmitt’s idea to use Helium-3 as a fuel source on earth. China, India, and Russia, however, are both interested in mining this element. Also, the European Space Agency (ESA) has shown interest.
I strongly predict that the US will mine this element as well, and by 2076, there will be fusion reactors available to use this precious element as fuel to power the entire US as well as the world. Will this solve Earth's energy problems?? Well, the success hinges upon a viable fusion reactor design. There are pros and cons.
MIT may have come across a possible solution toward a viable fusion reactor with an understanding of the problem of heat loss in this process.. Heavyweight Lockheed-Martin also has a "skunk works" efforts effort ongoing and may further add fuel (pun intended) to this effort. Germany may have also added momentum with their “stellarator” nuclear fusion device.
So by 2076, we certainly will have Helium-3 in fusion reactor processes across the globe. NASA, the ESA, China, India, and Russia are also likely to do this.