Scientists demonstrate generation of electricity from coldness of universe

Mohave Generating Station
Mojave Generating Station, a 1,580 MW coal plant. As fossil fuels get depleted faster than ever, it is important to switch to alternate methods of generation. (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

Conventional resources of energy have been providing and powering our needs since electricity was made in the late 1800s. The conventional resources of energy are polluting as well as a temporary solution for providing electricity. They are going to get over in the next couple of years after which we humans have to look out and seek other alternative resources, in the recent decade we have seen a good rise in the dependency on renewable sources of energy as we found out ways to develop electricity from water, wind, thermal and pressure differences.

Solar panels are currently the sector in boom however there are disadvantages to it. The drawbacks are that it cannot produce electricity in the absence of sunlight. Many regions of the Earth have a frigid zone where the chilling outflow can be harvested using thermal differences using the same kind of physics we use for solar panels. Scientists have demonstrated a way to generate a measurable amount of electricity, directly from the coldness of the universe. The semiconductor device faces the infrared rays of the sun and uses temperature difference of the Earth and the space to produce electricity.

In optoelectronic physics, there is a vast symmetry between incoming and outgoing radiations. In comparison to the leveraging energy (incoming), the negative illumination effect allows electricity to be harvested as the heat is transferred. The technology today is unable to capture the negative temperature difference very efficiently. The temperature in space is absolute zero and thus devices can be used to generate electricity.

The group found that negative illumination diode has the ability to generate 64 nanowatts of electricity per square meter,  this is very less than the theoretical standard. However Dr.Mashashi Ono, the author on this paper published in Applied Physics Letters, said that through increasing the optoelectronic efficiency and the material used, the power generated per square meter can be increased hugely. But when calculations are made and when atmospheric factors are taken into consideration we see that it has the ability to generate a power of 4 watts per square feet theoretically, which is enough to run power machinery during night time.

A typical solar panel can, however, produce close to 100-200 watts per square feet. Shanhui Fan, an author of a similar paper said that same principle could be used to recover waste heat from machines. From now onwards, however, he and his group are focusing on increasing the efficiency of the panels which if succeeds will be a breakthrough for mankind in its thirst to develop non-conventional resources of energy. Fan also comments that the vastness of the universe is a thermodynamic resource.


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