Definition of engineering?

Research on harnessing solar energy raises a question

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Research on harnessing solar energy from space has taken a significant step forward, as reported by Kevin O’Sullivan (“Irish scientists move closer to creating solar farms in space”, News, May 16th). Dr Neil Buchanan and his colleagues at Queen’s University Belfast are to be congratulated on solving some of the formidable problems around microwave transmission of energy to Earth. However, I would suggest that the work is outstanding engineering, rather than scientific, research. For example, the team will now begin “fine-tuning the technology and scaling it up”. That’s a pretty good definition of engineering!

Also, they have half an eye on the commercial prospects of the technology, a sure sign of the engineering mindset. This technology is worth encouraging, and may eventually complement our Earth-bound solar energy efforts. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN FOX,

Professor emeritus (electrical engineering),

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Queen’s University Belfast.

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