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An x-ray binary is a binary star system consisting of a star and a stellar remnant. As matter is ripped from the star and is then accelerated into the neutron star/black hole by its gravity, x-rays are generated from the poles of the accretion disk around the neutron star/black hole. X-rays have significantly more energy than most of the electromagnetic spectrum including visible light; however, the hard x-rays are well known for their penetrating power and they can knock away electrons in cells, killing the living organism. That being said, an advanced civilization may be able to utilize the energy from the astrophysical jets in an x-ray binary.

Questions

Q1: What kind of physics can they exploit to tap on one of the universe's most powerful engines?

Q2: Could x-rays be converted into useful energy to do work?

Q3: What kind of protection is expected to work in such a hostile environment, even for machines?

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  • $\begingroup$ The amount of energy contained in an x-ray particle is negligible if you have a lot more of another type, despite being the most energetic. There's no reason to think that the energy absorbed by solar panels now would be useless by comparison to a new futuristic tech that makes much better use of x-rays. It seems more realistic to assume that green light would be the only type of light energy to be useless assuming we could emulate the efficiency of energy absorption of plants. $\endgroup$
    – Neil
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ This is too short for an answer, but are you asking about a dyson sphere? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 20:58

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Q1: What kind of physics can they exploit to tap on one of the universe's most powerful engines?

  • Quantum physics, astrophysics, and chemistry provide the required physics to develop a material that can translate x-rays into electricity. This civilization will need astrophysics in order to get just close enough to harvest energy and not get fried.

Q2: Could x-rays be converted into useful energy to do work?

  • Yes. The Los Alamos National Lab recently reported a high(er) efficiency nanomaterial that will directly convert x-rays to electricity. If production of this material can be scaled up and made sufficiently durable to survive in space then it provides an excellent way to harvest energy from a strong x-ray source.

Q3: What kind of protection is expected to work in such a hostile environment, even for machines?

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