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Space & Astronomy

Could aliens harness energy from black holes ?

By T.K. Randall
June 25, 2020 · Comment icon 18 comments

Could a black hole be a viable energy source ? Image Credit: NASA / Alain Riazuelo
A new science experiment has supported the idea that it is possible to use a black hole as an energy source.
Few cosmic phenomena remain as frightening and mysterious as black holes - regions of space in which the gravitational pull is so great that nothing, not even light itself, can escape.

But what if it was possible to use black holes as a source of energy ?

50 years ago, mathematical physicist Roger Penrose put forward the notion that there exists a viable mechanism through which a sufficiently advanced civilization could generate power from a black hole by taking advantage of its rotational energy.

The key to this idea lies in the region just outside of a black hole's event horizon where space-time becomes twisted as it's dragged along by the rotation of the black hole - a phenomenon known as frame-dragging.

According to Penrose, if an object is dropped into the region where these forces are greatest, it would be split in two, with one half being thrown beyond the event horizon and the other being accelerated outwards with around 21% more energy than it had when it started.
At the time, proving that this would work wasn't possible, but now a new experiment carried out by scientists at the University of Glasgow's School of Physics and Astronomy has shown that, far from being a work of science-fiction, harnessing energy from a black hole may actually be possible.

Their experiment was based on the work of Soviet physicist Yakov Zel'dovich who in 1971 came up with the idea of substituting a black hole for a rotating cylinder and firing twisted beams of light at it.

In this case however, instead of light, the team used sound waves.

"We're thrilled to have been able to experimentally verify some extremely odd physics a half-century after the theory was first proposed," said physicist Daniel Faccio.

"It's strange to think that we've been able to confirm a half-century-old theory with cosmic origins here in our lab in the west of Scotland, but we think it will open up a lot of new avenues of scientific exploration."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (18)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by DreadLordAvatar 4 years ago
Title is bait click...
Comment icon #10 Posted by ChrLzs 4 years ago
Why on earth (or across the whole galaxy), would you choose a black hole rather than a star?  Yes, more energy may be available, but your average star doesn't have enuff?  And as time goes by and we get more efficient and 'green', we shouldn't have large energy needs. I mean, what the hell - I just installed LED lights in my house and car, just to avoid this very issue.  I don't want to have to get to some black hole, only to have it burp on the nearest supergiant star and wipe me from existence with the outburst....  
Comment icon #11 Posted by tmcom 4 years ago
A black hole is cooler!
Comment icon #12 Posted by tmcom 4 years ago
Aliens wouldn't mess about with black holes anyway, a transparent, hollow cube, that can extract zero point energy to power a city, probably?
Comment icon #13 Posted by Saru 4 years ago
This is prime nitpicking - the question is "could aliens harness energy from black holes?" and the article attempts to answer that question. Several other organizations and sites covering this research have used the ET angle when presenting it. The University of Glasgow, for example, writes: The point here is to discuss the research/experiment the article covers, not to complain about the wording of the title.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Desertrat56 4 years ago
@Saru, this it not the only article that the title to the thread is misleading to the actual subject in the article.   I apologise for being nit-picky, just sometimes my OCD kicks in.  Though I don't retract what I said. The idea of getting energy from a black hole is a cool idea, and it is interesting that scientists are looking at it, it may lead to better ways of energy production, but I agree with who ever said why not get it from the sun, it would be safer.
Comment icon #15 Posted by XenoFish 4 years ago
I think a better use for a black hole would be as a gravity slingshot. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by NCC1701 4 years ago
If they are so advanced, why not use nuclear fusion, that would be a lot easier to do.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Dejarma 4 years ago
i'm quite happy with the energy we've got now
Comment icon #18 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
Seriously. A non-active yellow dwarf would certainly cover you for a few million years with a lot less hazards.  

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