How to Harness Energy From Black Holes (DO NOT DO THIS)

Jan 18, 2021 | AAS, Daily Space, Supermassive Black Holes

How to Harness Energy From Black Holes (DO NOT DO THIS)
IMAGE: Plasma close to the event horizon about to be devoured by a rotating black hole. CREDIT: IOP Publishing

We’d like to let you know about a new alternative energy source that I really don’t think anyone should take advantage of. In a new paper appearing in Physical Review D, physicists Luca Comisso and Felipe Asenjo describe how energy can be extracted from black holes.

According to Comisso: Our theory shows that when magnetic field lines disconnect and reconnect, in just the right way, they can accelerate plasma particles to negative energies and large amounts of black hole energy can be extracted.

When I first encountered this article, I assumed their discussion of energy extraction was relevant for how energy moves through systems that involve black holes, and that this research would allow us to better understand things like how black holes spin, and how this transfer of energy might drive known phenomena like jets of high energy particles. And it does do all that! What I wasn’t expecting was Comisso’s claim that this energy could be harnessed by advanced civilizations.

To be fair, a society that lived near a black hole and harnessed its energy could live in their own slow pocket of time, and that has a certain appeal. Nevertheless, this just strikes me as a bad idea, but I’m a scientist. This research is the kind that just needs a science fiction writer to weave it into a new tale of other worlds.

More Information

Columbia University press release

Magnetic reconnection as a mechanism for energy extraction from rotating black holes,” Luca Comisso and Felipe A. Asenjo, 2021 January 13, Physical Review D


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