Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
Replace "light" with "sausages" and this may work...

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Fibre optic mains

Switch to electricity at the last moment if at all
  [vote for,

There are currently fibre optic cables and mains electricity cables. As has been discussed here before, a twelve volt house is a possibility except for very power-hungry appliances. In the meantime, a little mains electricity is provided by solar power and there is also microgeneration.

But aren't we to some extent doing this the wrong way round? In order to manage this, dangerous electrical installations exist all over the country and inside buildings, and there must also be some energy loss through conversion of light to electric current and back again in some cases.

Therefore, this is what i'm suggesting. Instead of providing electric current for electrical appliances, provide light and fibre optic cables. The sun shines on an array of fibres and in some cases conventional electricity powers red, green and blue lasers working in tandem. Fibre optics carry the light into houses, or with microgeneration around the house. Leave the likes of washing machines and cement mixers out of the equation: they're just powered by conventional mains electricity. However, other devices are either electrical but low-power, entirely based on light or hybrid electric-photonic devices. Where electricity is genuinely needed, a photovoltaic system at the end of the optical fibre converts the light to electric current. Otherwise, the light is just used as such.

So, lighting is simply provided by light. Heating and cooking heat is provided by light focussed through lenses. Televisions, monitors and other displays are backlit by light. Telephones and wireless devices communicate with their targets, base stations or whatever using light. Even cables leading to amplifiers, telecom cables and so forth are completely optical.

The lasers are switched in when the sunlight is too weak. This isn't necessarily at a distant power station so much as generated in the vicinity of the building.

I'm mainly suggesting this because it would reduce or at least change the nature of the risk from electricity, and in some cases, somewhat increase efficiency, rather like a fifty kHz electricity supply for an induction oven.

nineteenthly, Dec 11 2010

Same thing: when you need light... use light. Solar_20Lighting
on a smaller scale. [FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2010]

call that black ? http://www.internet...rkest-material.html
now this! is black. [FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2010]

Light Sabre Steak Knives Lightsaber_20Steak_20Knives
While we're on an "off-topic" anyway... [Jinbish, Dec 14 2010]

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       Well that's OK if you like big, chunky things rather than the tiny, weedy devices in use nowadays.
nineteenthly, Dec 11 2010

       but what kind of transmission efficiency could you get.
FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2010

       What kind can you afford ?
8th of 7, Dec 11 2010

       [FT], i did think about your solar lighting idea, but this extends it and uses the light for a variety of purposes. And i don't know, right now, how efficient it would be.
nineteenthly, Dec 11 2010

       well, you got the dinnertime peak where everybody's using 5kW stoves... that'd be one scary pipe (and I just looked outside and thanks to somebody's brilliant reworking of timezones it's pitch black at 5:30pm)
FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2010

       //pitch black at 5:30pm// You have a problem with there being less than 11 hours of daylight per day?
pocmloc, Dec 11 2010

       According to the webternet, laser efficiencies are between 0.1 and 30%. So, you're going to have to have efficiencies of >>100% downstream for this to fly.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 11 2010

       //problem with there being less than 11 hours of daylight per day ?// no, a problem with a discrepancy between midnight and mid-sleeping pattern. I don't have to be up with the cows at 4am, if I did, or if work started at 5am, I'd be happy with the deal.
FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2010

       //size of a typical compact fluorescent bulb would be trebled by using light as an energy source// Surely the size would be reduced to zero by using light as an energy source. Or is my sarcasm filter not working properly today?
spidermother, Dec 12 2010

       optical computers are coming!
VJW, Dec 12 2010

       Imagine accidently cutting through a mains-optic cable with a digger. The fibre-substation would not be able to see the fault, so would keep pumping ~100kW of light into the hole.   

       However, it would allow the workmen to fill the bucket with water, lower it into the hole and make tea really quickly. Something that UK workmen would appreciate. Life here is fueled by tea...   

       Workmen would also be able to feel cool, wearing sun glases all the time - just in case!
saedi, Dec 12 2010

       Maybe that's another application then: alternative to X-rays. Brilliant light shining right through people's bodies, leaving their bones clearly discernible.   

       [MB], depends on what you want to do with it and how much you want to over-engineer it. A TFT with a translucent backing held up to the sun is a replacement for a backlight (and is automatically a SAD monitor). We're also often talking about little dribbles of power, for instance with an analogue radio.   

       [VJW], sadly that was also said to be true in the mid-'seventies when i grew up. Could be like fusion power i think.
nineteenthly, Dec 12 2010

       These lasers can be sent through evacuated tunnels for minimal transmission losses. My guess is better than fiber optics.
VJW, Dec 12 2010

       Yes, possibly, but hard to maintain a vacuum along a long stretch, i would expect.
nineteenthly, Dec 12 2010

       Also would have to be strictly line-of-sight, no?
mouseposture, Dec 12 2010

       So not only would the workmen go blind, the laser pipe of death would inhale the digger too! Beginning to sound fun.
saedi, Dec 12 2010

       Why not stick to the existing 50Hz mains, and just run towards it really, really, really fast?
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 12 2010

       Well yes, [MB]. Stop the light and shove the buildings past it using hundreds of nuclear explosions a second.   

       No, it wouldn't have to be line of sight then because the inside of the tube could be silvered.
nineteenthly, Dec 13 2010

       [nineteenthly] But then you'd have to forgo the //minimal transmission losses//
mouseposture, Dec 13 2010

       I really would prefer to keep some kind of material in the fibre.
nineteenthly, Dec 13 2010

       One of the advantages of this idea is that you could do away with wires, fibers, conduits ... everything. Just a lot of very carefully aimed lasers. Of course, you'd have to be careful where you stepped (drove, flew ...), but that's a small price to pay for engineering elegance.
mouseposture, Dec 14 2010

       Anyone done any calculations about the power delivered by fibre?
Jinbish, Dec 14 2010

       Well, [Ian], that explains why you're mystified about the delay in BT installing 'fibre to the home'...
Jinbish, Dec 14 2010

       If lasers are used, then it can be used for all heating applications as well.e.g. laser stove. Just shine laser onto food.
VJW, Dec 14 2010

       So what about slaughterhouses? Are we going to laser them to death?
Ling, Dec 14 2010

       Transport as well - lasers aimed parallel to and perhaps 15 or 20 feet above the road or rail surface. Vehicles hoist solar sails.
pocmloc, Dec 14 2010

       Whoa. We're going off-topic here. The idea is an optic fibre-based energy transmission system - not wireless power transfer by laser (known as power beaming).
Jinbish, Dec 14 2010

       It's a bit of both actually, and it occurs to me that a laser carving knife would be nice. Light sabre for bread-slicing or meat carving (with something at the end to stop it, obviously).   

       And the safety issue: everyone wears "space suits" which reflect the light off safely, and proceed to scatter it all over the room destroying everything in its path. Then again, the laser could just be weaker.
nineteenthly, Dec 14 2010

       I'm still curious about the laser washing machine.
pocmloc, Dec 14 2010

       ...and the laser bidet
hippo, Dec 14 2010

       Washing machines are specifically excluded, but if you really wanted one it could run on a Stirling engine i suppose.   

       A laser bidet would be a modified version of your bog-standard electric bidet, or maybe a sonic bidet with attitude.
nineteenthly, Dec 14 2010


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