In the black hole merger, recently observed by LIGO, about 5% of energy was irradiated in form of gravitational waves. source of data

Is there any theoretical limit to how much energy can be irradiated in this fashion in black hole merger? Could some sufficiently developed civilisation, in principle, manipulate two black holes into merging and harness the energy? If they would be put into sufficently tight and precise orbit, could almost all of the mass be turned into energy?

  • $\begingroup$ The energy lost to gravitational waves causes their orbits to decay so it doesn't seem likely that you can radiate most of the energy / mass away before they merge. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ I have an answer related to this here: physics.stackexchange.com/a/238458/47594 $\endgroup$
    – Paul T.
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 17:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You are getting greedy. You really don't need all the energy. The recent collision observed radiated energy equivalent to 3 solar masses! That's probably more than any advanced civilization can deal with. Where do you plan to store it? $\endgroup$
    – docscience
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ The amount of energy radiated was well above the efficiency of any fusion or fission power source. Also the density of energy in the radiation zone at emission time was 15 orders of magnitude higher than possible energy densities achievable with electric fields. Even at 1.3 billion light years away, the earth had 2.3 Terawatts of power pass through it from GW150914. There is so much power created in a merger like this that it goes beyond mere mind boggling. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulT. Linked answer is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 18:07


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