first_imgLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. We may soon be able to harness Earth’s wasted heat for energy. If you’re thinking “Wait, don’t we already do that with geothermal?!” this isn’t quite that.Almost everything we know of gives off at least a little bit of heat in the form of infrared radiation. This isn’t quite the same thing as the heat that you feel, as these signals are electromagnetic waves. And that means that in the same way that we can use an antenna to gather up radio signals, we can pick up these transmissions and use them to generate an electrical current. If enough antennas are put together, that current could translate into a tremendous amount of power. And when I say that, I really mean it.Millions of gigawatts effectively “leak” from the Earth each second. The heat from you, your pets, and every object around you is constantly generating a tiny bit of radiation. It’s safe, of course, but with every single object on Earth giving off just a bit, there’s a lot of untapped potential here. Which is exactly what lead researcher Atif Shamin wanted to study.By constructing specialized antennas that rely on a bizarre, but well-known phenomenon called quantum tunneling, Shamin’s team was able to collect a tiny amount of power using otherwise wasted infrared rays.An associate professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Shamin designed a new type of diode and antenna that can handle the frequencies. Until now, the issue has been the physical creation of such antennas. Because infrared signals oscillate so quickly, whatever device you use to collect them has to be on the nano-scale, something that’s hard to build and even harder to test.“There is no commercial diode in the world that can operate at such high frequency,” Shamin said in a statement. “That’s why we turned to quantum tunneling.”Instead of trying to make the antenna work at these high frequencies, the team used two nano-antennas in a bowtie-like arrangement. There is a small, nano-scale overlap between the two, bridged by a small insulator. Normally, with this configuration, nothing would happen. But, because electrons can tunnel, under very specific conditions, the team was able to generate a tiny amount of power.Explaining the process is challenging to anyone without at least a few university physics courses under their belt, but in the simplest terms, if a gap is small enough, sometimes, particles will spontaneously jump it. In this case, these particles are electrons. Originally coming from the electromagnetic waves of the infrared rays, and then essentially retooled to be used as electricity by the mechanism.Right now the process is horribly inefficient and requires a ton of advanced materials and a specialized lab just to produce the equipment. But Shamin believes there’s potential. “This is just the beginning – a proof of concept,” he added.In time, it’s possible that we could coat all kinds of things with these antennas and recapture wasted heat from heavy industry, or collect the heat from cities for use as power. There’s huge potential, though that will likely be limited by how well we can manufacture many super-tiny, super-precise systems. Right now, we’re a long way off, but it’s cool stuff regardless. Stay on targetcenter_img Watch: ‘Fighting’ Male Pythons Spotted By Australian Snake CatcherHubble Space Telescope Captures Star’s Eerie Gaseous Glow last_img

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