Electricity Harvested from Earth’s Infrared Radiation

HarvardA Harvard professor is proposing powering the planet with electricity harvested from infrared radiation emitted from the Earth, reports Forbes.

The plan by Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, uses devices that seemingly reverse the idea of traditional photovoltaic panels – that of absorbing energy to generate electricity – instead relying on the release of infrared radiation to achieve the same goal.

The proposal appears in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The abstract reads:

“It is possible to harvest energy from Earth’s thermal infrared emission into outer space. We calculate the thermodynamic limit for the amount of power available, and as a case study, we plot how this limit varies daily and seasonally in a location in Oklahoma. We discuss two possible ways to make such an emissive energy harvester: A thermal EEH (analogous to solar thermal power generation) and an optoelectronic EEH (analogous to photovoltaic power generation). For the latter, we propose using an infrared-frequency rectifying antenna, and we discuss its operating principles, efficiency limits, system design considerations, and possible technological implementations.”

Earlier this year, Harvard scientists and engineers demonstrated a new type of battery that could make power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable.

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