Could We Extract Energy From a Black Hole? Scientists Propose a Wild New Plan – ScienceAlert

For many years, scientists have wrestled with a posh thriller of physics: May the immense quantities of power theoretically produced by rotating black holes ever be tapped by human fingers?


If future societies have been someway capable of pull off this magnificent feat, the ability provide of far-off galactic civilisations would seemingly be assured – and now scientists have a brand new clarification for the way such an unique extraction would possibly someday be attainable.

“Black holes are generally surrounded by a scorching ‘soup’ of plasma particles that carry a magnetic discipline,” explains astrophysicist Luca Comisso from Columbia College.

“Our concept exhibits that when magnetic discipline strains disconnect and reconnect, in simply the best means, they will speed up plasma particles to unfavorable energies and huge quantities of black gap power will be extracted.”

Comisso’s new work – co-authored by physicist Felipe A. Asenjo from the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile – gives a brand new prism for glimpsing how power extraction from a spinning black gap may work.

Given their excessive mass, it is solely pure to imagine black holes additionally comprise an excessive quantity of power. Sadly it is all locked away on the backside of a slippery pit of spacetime.

Below situations the place that mass rotates, it might be attainable to dip a toe into this immense power pool because the slopes of spacetime are dragged alongside.


Emminent College of Oxford physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose counsel one ingenious technique. In what turned often known as the Penrose process, power would possibly theoretically be extracted from the area outdoors a black gap’s occasion horizon, known as the ergosphere, inside which spacetime will get twisted round from the results of the black gap’s rotation.

Penrose’s calculations prompt that if a particle break up into two components contained in the ergosphere, with one piece falling into the occasion horizon and the opposite escaping the black gap’s gravitational pull, power yielded by the escaping object could be theoretically extractable, if virtually unimaginable.

This well-known concept was experimentally verified by scientists in a paper revealed solely a matter of months in the past, however it’s not the one prompt technique of harnessing a spinning black gap’s power.

Hawking radiation, based mostly round quantum mechanical emissions, is one other means, as is what’s often known as the Blandford–Znajek process, by which power may be extracted electromagnetically through the magnetic discipline round a black gap.

In Comisso and Asenjo’s evaluation, magnetism additionally performs a central position – particularly, as magnetic discipline strains break and rejoin contained in the ergosphere – however it additionally recasts a number of the considering of the Penrose course of.


As magnetic reconnections happen outdoors the occasion horizon – splitting plasma particles accelerated to velocities approaching the pace of sunshine in two totally different instructions – one plasma movement may fall into the occasion horizon, with the opposite escaping.

From the attitude of the black gap, the falling particle could be imbued with a unfavorable quantity of power. From outdoors the black gap, the exiting particle would have constructive power that might be put to work.

By way of this technique, escaping plasma streams with topped-up power may theoretically function a nearly limitless supply of free power, so long as the black gap retains swallowing unfavorable power plasma, that’s.

“We calculated that the method of plasma energisation can attain an effectivity of 150 p.c, a lot larger than any energy plant working on Earth,” Asenjo explains.

“Attaining an effectivity higher than 100 p.c is feasible as a result of black holes leak power, which is given away without spending a dime to the plasma escaping from the black gap.”

Whereas it is maybe unlikely that we may ever someway feasibly exploit this power era in sensible phrases, that does not imply it is solely ineffective.

From an astronomical perspective, the phenomenon might be what powers black gap flares – representing huge releases of radiation power going untapped into area.

“In a different way from the Blandford-Znajek course of, by which the extraction of rotational power is obtained by way of a purely electromagnetic mechanism, the power extraction mechanism described right here requires non-zero particle inertia,” the authors write.

“This mechanism can also be totally different from the unique Penrose course of, since dissipation of magnetic power is required to supply the negative-energy particles. Clearly, all mechanisms extract black gap rotational power by feeding the black gap with unfavorable power and angular momentum.”

The findings are reported in Physical Review D.


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