Harvesting Energy From The Earth With Quantum Tunneling

More energy hits the earth in sunlight every day than humanity could use in about 16,000 years or so, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying to tap into other sources of energy too. One source that shows promise is geothermal, but these methods have been hindered by large startup costs and other engineering challenges. A new way to tap into this energy source has been found however, which relies on capturing the infrared radiation that the Earth continuously gives off rather than digging large holes and using heat exchangers.

This energy is the thermal radiation that virtually everything gives off in some form or another. The challenge in harvesting this energy is that since the energy is in the infrared range, exceptionally tiny antennas are needed which will resonate at that frequency. It isn’t just fancy antennas, either; a new type of diode had to be manufactured which uses quantum tunneling to convert the energy into DC electricity.

While the scientists involved in this new concept point out that this is just a prototype at this point, it shows promise and could be a game-changer since it would allow clean energy to be harvested whenever needed, and wouldn’t rely on the prevailing weather. While many clean-energy-promising projects often seem like pipe dreams, we can’t say it’s the most unlikely candidate for future widespread adoption we’ve ever seen.

117 thoughts on “Harvesting Energy From The Earth With Quantum Tunneling

  1. From the paper: “The final rectenna efficiency is obtained from (6) and is equal to 1.75e−14.”

    I’d say their conclusion of “The results, though not the best in terms of efficiency, are promising enough for further investigations in this area.” are pushing it a little. But it’s an interesting idea overall, and THz diodes sure are handy to have in the engineering toolbox.

  2. Normally, generating energy between two points semed to be the norm, as we’ve seen in battery-operated devices – the battery becomes the energy producer, while the two points transmit energy to the device.

    But, harvesting energy from two points to consume it later sounds cool. If quantum energy could be the new norm, we’d be generating electricity from nothing!

  3. I have to call BS on “More energy hits the earth in sunlight every day than humanity could use in about 16,000 years or so”

    Doesn’t pass the sniff test. Heck, even the bogometer is pegged.

    Assume 2.5 kW/person. I eat probably 10 kW, counting house heat, car, street lights, fertilizer for my food, and the planes I fly on. I’m sure that’s balanced out by a few billion people surviving on less than 1 kW in less profligate cultures and more hospitable climates.

    So that’s about 6e20 J/year for all of humanity.

    Insolation from the sun on our globe is about 4e16W, though much of that just promptly bounces off. Call it 4e21J per day.

    That’s only 6 or 7 years of human energy usage, not 16 000. Out by a factor of 2400.

    Meat brains are horrible at estimating large numbers.

    1. I think it is 1361 watts of solar irradiance per square metre, an albedo of about 0.3, and a cross sectional area of around 1.2 x 10^14 m^2. That gives me around 1.4 x10^17 watts, 1.3×10^22 joules per day. Google says humanity uses around 5.0 x10^20 joules per annum. Call it 27 years per day.

      1. 1.4 x10^17 watts would be the energy *per second*. A watt and watt/second are the same thing, so nobody uses the term watt/second or watt/seconds.

        Hurricane Katrina unleashed more energy in a week than the whole human race used in the previous 15 to 20 years. Enough solar energy hits earth every second to power several Katrina sized hurricanes.

        Human activity isn’t doing crap to affect the temperature of Earth. The smallest wibble in the Sun’s output (which equals a staggeringly huge amount of difference in total output, and thus how much of that Earth catches) makes the difference. Don’t let the AGW pushers fob that off with “But the sun’s output only varies a tiny percent.” A tiny percent of multiple yottawatts is a massive amount.

        1. Uhhh, what?

          It’s not humanity’s energy output that is causing the earth to heat up; that’s freaking absurd. So very, very, very absurd that you’d make such a comment. I’d liken it to trying to raise the temperature of a bottle of water by vigorously shaking it. Will shaking it cause a temperature increase? Yes, but it will take an inordinate amount of work and energy input.

          Greenhouse gas emissions are causing the (average) global temperature of the earth to increase on a yearly basis. It’s the total output of CO2, CO, CH4, and other gasses that has increased the efficiency of energy absorption in earth’s atmosphere.

          1. Don’t feed the trolls, @kvg. This is typical of the pseudo-science that science-deniers employ to try to sound like they know what they’re talking about. I’m just surprised to see it in a site visited by predominantly smart people..

        2. Also, the sun’s output only matters as an average of its total output. Even if there are spikes and valleys in its output, the earth has enough thermal mass that it smooths out those perturbations. If it didn’t, we’d see temperature fluctuations as a result of solar storms, flares, corona mass ejections, etc.

          As far as I know that has not been observed, so I call major BS on that.

          Oh, and the average temperature of the earth is increasing at a faster rate than the temperatures of our neighboring planets. That fact alone pretty much makes your argument moot.

          1. Right, read into weather modification. Takes a shitload of energy to do that I’m guessing if wireless and not chemical (even chemical processing and distribution takes energy). Wondering if the steps in the weather modification processes translating in the form of heat from heat from heat sources we didn’t need radiated?

          2. time is relevant. today maybe, but many times in history it was worse…dont forget conservation of energy either…we aren’t adding anything, we are just moving it around.not much mention of earths induced current from the sun either …

        3. “A watt and a watt/second are the same thing”
          No they aren’t. A watt-second (one watt for one second) is a joule, a unit of energy rather than power. I’ve never heard of a watt/second (watt per second?) but in dimension terms it would be a rate of change of power, also not the same as power.

          “Putting on a 500g sweater only requires 0.5kg*9.8*1.5m = 7.35 joules to pick it up from the floor, it couldn’t possibly result in changing the temperature of a 65kg human body. And it takes less energy than that to turn the dial on my thermostat, and that heats up the entire house. Climate change is a hoax!”

          1. When you construct a green house to grow tomatoes it is not the energy you spent to build it that rise the temparature inside the green house, it is the energy of the sun. The same for climate change it is not the energy we spend that induce climate change. It is the green house effect cause by the increased CO2 in the atmosphere consequence of the fossil fluel we burn. The sun energy is heating the earth more because we built a green house all over the earth by iincreasing CO2 in the atmosphere.

          2. ” I’ve never heard of a watt/second (watt per second?)”

            It’d be something used for the ramp rate of a generator or power plants. Usually specified in MW/min.

        4. Exactly correct. Actually, there has been a cooling of the earth over the past 15 years so the sun controls the temperature on earth, not man. We could not raise it if we wanted to nor could we cool it.

          1. Yeah and all the heat from combustion/processing of deep rotted compressed really old dead disgust, alternators and generators including the EMF transmissions causing heat, other oscillators like in unbalanced mechanical devices and my favorite topic no one likes to talk about… the 2000+ thermonuclear bombs exploded just under, on or above the surface of the earth and not deep enough in space for me to consider safe enough where there was negligible heat radiated.

            Thermocooler nuclear bombs sounds like a trademark?


          2. We can redistribute natural things in a most catastrophic fashion.

            Plus a lot of the energy of earth doesn’t come from the sun but from the processes near the core. Of which we still are not sure how they work actually.

          3. I watched enough of it years ago to know it was totally bogus. It has been proven to be bogus. Many of the parts were staged as reported later by the photographers. All of the serious climatologists are actually concerned about the coming ice age as the earth is cooling faster than previously predicted. Gore did that film to make millions, and he has. One of his 5 houses is not too far from me and his monthly electric bill is over $5,000! Yet he tells us to conserve and save the planet…he is full of crap and has been debunked thousands of times.

          4. How do they say what they mean sometimes… more for them (or “me” if them in first person)??? ~$300 million net worth???

            Reminds me of this video (though I believe in solar cycles also, weather modification, actual data from validated calibrated systems with rigorously certified validly standards within defined criteria and population versus sample set statistics and other methods):

        5. Watts and watt-seconds are *not* the same thing. That’s equivalent to saying kilowatts and kilowatt-hours are the same thing. One is a measure of power (volts * amps), the other of power-over-time (volts * amps * seconds).

          A human-body-model static discharge of 8kV can peak at over 4 amps – that’s 32 instantaneous kilowatts – but it only carries about 830 nanowatt-hours. (Nanowatt-hours is an absurd unit, by the way.)

      1. No, you’re misreading. The statement was that the solar power received at Earth in *one day* could power humanity for 16,000 years. You’re using the amount of solar power estimated available at Earth in *one year*.

        As a random coincidence the actual solar energy received in one day at Earth is just the solar constant times pi*(R_earth^2), which is 15,000 EJ, right in between your minimum/maximum (which tells you how much you lose going through the atmosphere!). The only amount you could safely extract without screwing with the rest of Earth would be 0.3 times that (the amount reflected back into space), or 4500 EJ. Which is a little under 9 years, as was stated, and way, way off from 16,000 years.

        Pretty sure what was meant was the solar power received at Earth in *one year* could power humanity for 16,000 years, but even that’s off (it’s only 3200 years or so). Hell, I can’t even make it work if you assume that someone screwed up and used the solar constant times the *entire* surface area of the Earth (rather than the cross-sectional area), which would get you an additional factor of 4.

  4. Interesting method to investigate future potential, pun intended. I see like energy translation devices in general and when thinking outside of mechanical operations and in the IR range… you have Thermocouples and photodiodes (photovoltaics and phototransistors) for more direct conversion where improvements can be made in regards to tuning to be optimal in the desired range of emissions translation to electricity.

    Granted… pun intended… not the most efficient… though interesting still.

  5. And any article that contains a sentence like “…infrared radiation that some estimate to be as much as millions of gigawatts every second.” is immediately suspect. Whoever wrote that is an innumerate idiot, and so is their editor.

    1. Spose so. There was a thing on here a few years ago about doing the same thing with visible light. Using teeny little aerials and diodes to rectify the electric field of EM radiation.

  6. Although the device is an impressive achievement of fabrication and measurement, I think the application assumes a thermodynamics violation.

    In the imagined application, it seeks to capture ambient thermal energy in the form of IR radiation. It captures in a warm place (the lab, or maybe the Saudi desert) and passively moves that energy to an equally warm place (the voltmeter, or somewhere else on earth). Heat engines can’t do that.

    Even though this involves woo-friendly quantum tunneling, we can still analyze it as a heat engine that can’t work, right? Or am I just confused by conflating IR with heat?

    1. Yes, much woo here. I’m a firm believer in the laws of thermodynamics, and I’m pretty sure Maxwell’s demon has teeth.

      But they do propose a reasonable-sounding mechanism: two materials in close proximity, of different work functions, separated by a barrier layer: analogous to a photovoltaic cell. Sounds plausible, and they support it with theory and modeling that doesn’t look too out of left field.

      Whether they can fabricate something that actually *works* using the proposed mechanism is an entirely different question.

      But when they blast their test device with 30 kilowatts per square meter from a CO2 laser, and measure an efficiency of 1.75e-14, well, Occam’s going to have a word or two here about experimental error. They might do well to study Pons & Fleischmann before trying to publish any more.

    2. If the definition of heat is; “a form of energy arising from the random motion of the molecules of bodies, which may be transferred by conduction, convection, or radiation,” then certain masses resonate with IR radiation to transfer “heat” energy. So, the “quantum tunneling” is like woo to me also. However, the antenna idea of sympathetically resonating with the IR EMF signals and transferring that signal energy to voltage and current makes more sense. Efficiency and effectiveness of being efficient is going to make more sales.

        1. Thanks, right… that’s why I noted “woo.” Got my attention and I don’t really know what “quantum tunneling” means also. Probably a concept that can use promotion and one I need to read into more.

          In regards to another topic; is interesting how the Middle East has invested more in solar concentration trough operations and desalination systems.

          I wonder if they’re thinking higher temperature PV’s also using more common materials and potential improvements in designs of layout of PV’s thinking like maybe fractal patterns, spiral conical patters or the highest efficiency antenna design using the smallest surface area footprint ways can make improvements?

        2. Electron tunneling = quantum tunneling.

          It’s a tunnel diode. They’ve been around since… forever (OK, the 1950s), and Esaki won a Nobel Prize for it because it helped demonstrate that quantum tunneling *actually exists*. They’re able to switch (as in, go from forward/reverse current) ridiculously fast because the depletion region’s super narrow.

          That’s how this device can act as a a rectifier for IR, which is in the THz frequency regime. If you put in THz on one side of the diode you get a half-wave rectified version on the other side. Filter, and poof, you get DC current. You still need a temperature differential of course because the “load” side has a temperature too, and in a crude sense, you can think if both sides are equal temperature, well, it’s a diode – no current flow.

          1. Pat – It was actually 1948 but some scientists say that it may not be QT but thermal activation. But Pat I’m not debating that ET is not QT. I can accept that. However, I am just not accepting the “woo” comment. It is a proven method of the MIM diode and not magic. However it works IT WORKS. We just have to wait and see what their progress is. It may be a boom or bust, who knows?

          2. jafinch78 – No Woo (actually spelled WU) is referring to Chinese Magic. In the usage here on this subject matter the user was referring to that the IR Harvesting device using a MIM diode (which allegedly uses QT or ET) is like believing in Chinese magic. Not BS. These guys are legitimate students of University of Colorado and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia (and fully funding this project). So no they are not BS artists. They are the real deal.

            And there is some debate from Institut für Angewandte Physik, Technische Hochschule Darmstadt,Germany. that the MIM diode is POSSIBLY not using QT at all but using some form of “thermal activation” to work. I think the salient problem here is the plausible misunderstanding of how this gadget actually works. That Gold and Titanium bowtie nano-rectenna coupled with the MIM diode and other stuff is how this complicated thing works. I’m not convinced QT is even playing a function here. All I know is that the MIM diode is as old as the hills (circa 1948) and is not a WU magical device. It is ALLEGED that it uses QT, and it works, so it’s empirical not magic.

            These students may just be slightly wrong with their research. It’s only in its infancy. So too soon to be calling BS just yet. And for the record its too soon to call the Fleischmann–Pons project BS too. Google the LENR project to confirm that.

            G.Jayaswala, A.Belkadib, A.Meredova, B.Pelzb, G.Moddelb, and A.Shamim Remember these 6 names… they may be the next Thomas Edisons with this ‘THz energy harvesting’ project.

          3. I have to re-read again. I thought the system worked by: “That Gold and Titanium bowtie (antenna actually with an Al2O3 oxide insulator between the gold and titanium elements arm tips though reads like is sandwiched between copper and gold is) a nano-rectenna MIM diode. That is my understanding. The sandwich is confusing me as seems like a process though may be the antenna is in a silicon media with copper on top and gold on bottom. I’m not confident… I have to read again in more detail.

    3. IR radiation is electromagnetic, only when it hits…something… does it transfer EM radiation into kinetic energy of molecules/atoms and laws of thermodynamics come into play.

      If there was nothing to capture the IR radiation of stuff around you and no other IR radiation source, it would just get cooler and cooler until it hits absolute zero despite having no temperature gradient (vacuum is empty, it’s not cooler or hotter, just empty)
      The magical device presented here is an tiny antenna, not a heat engine, big difference.

      1. Yeah, um, no. It’s still a heat engine. This works because it only absorbs/emits at long-wavelength IR, so the sky is always cold (3 K) and the Earth is always hot (300 K), and a device that only absorbs/emits at certain frequencies is pretty easy to build (it’s an antenna). It still has the same Carnot efficiency limit, though.

      2. AKA the A – I think if you read their paper it would not be so magical to you: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468606917301739

        The HEAT ENGINE is ideally the sun. Then the Earth becomes a blackbody reflection heat engine. This thing is a bunch of nano-sized bow tie antennas tuned for 28.3 THz. It converts IR (heat) into direct DC electricity like a photovoltaic does with visible light. I know it LOOKS like the Seebeck Effect but it is not related. It will be revolutionary when they figure out how to get the DC voltage out to a load. It’s not ready for prime-time yet. The oil-rich Saudis are paying for this American university research. And that little fact baffles me as if this thing goes live and proves to be sustainable and successful it will eventually negatively impact the oil-industry, so why fund it? Wouldn’t this device be a fossil fuel threat?

          1. Whatnot – Give ’em a chance Whatnot, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is just a prototype and it is infinitesimally small. All they get now is about 0.4 volts with a standard lab CO2 LASER. I think they are publishing a paper now to get their placeholder intact in history. I’m pretty sure they are sitting on some “secret sauce” scenario they consider I.P. Already the darn thing uses precious metals like our hydrogen fuel cells. What else is in there to help boost up that tiny voltage? Who knows?

            Since this is nanotechnology, multiplicity may be the key here. If you are familiar with the Aegis non-steerable radar array, you see that it uses a plethora of tiny antenna arrays and has awesome resolution on diversely spread-out radar targets with out even rotating the array at all. Multiplicity (via nano-tech) is the key to lots of today’s high-tech marvels. Reminds me of an insect’s compound eye.

            If you make a FARM like a solar farm you get more power from it. If you’ve seen the solar steam boiler farms they set up in deserts, it has a single steam boiler on top of a high tower connected to a steam turbine like a nuclear sub’s propulsion is. Then there are hundreds (or more) steerable mirrors surrounding it that track the sun and all focus on the high boiler ball on top of the tower. Something like Archimedes Death Ray? Imagine this device on top of that tower instead. But the only product is electricity not steam.

            Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System- Mojave Desert CA

          2. sonofthunerdoanerges, et.al.: Check out these, trough and dish, designs.



            They’re more efficient for the foot print on the surface and I bet can be stacked like a matrix if really wanting to be more critical with earth surface area development. I’m not sure compared to the most efficient PV’s now lifecycle PM and replacement long term expense. I’d think troughs or dish designs are more efficient though I wonder regarding the whole raw material to finished product lifecycle.

            Now, if the dish and troughs used molted salt and the heat from a phase state of matter change like say with lithium salts or even maybe like sodium acetate (hand warmers) then I bet the duty cycle and efficiency can be increased significantly.

            The design you noted is interesting and has an interesting history (i didn’t realize there was a new implement also, neat)… as antennas also, though the parabolic dish and trough systems can act as antennas too.

          3. Phased arrays are pretty ancient technology at this point you know sonofthunderboanerges.
            The AN/SPY-1 phased array RADAR was deployed by the US Navy in 1973, And we are talking something that was in production and not something on the design desk.

    4. “It captures in a warm place (the lab, or maybe the Saudi desert) and passively moves that energy to an equally warm place (the voltmeter, or somewhere else on earth). ”

      It’s not equally warm at all. Imagine the Earth’s atmosphere was completely transparent. So you’re absorbing thermal radiation at 300K (on the hot side) and radiating it away to 3K (on the cold side, the blackbody temperature of the Universe). Because the Earth’s atmosphere isn’t completely transparent, the ‘cold side’ temperature isn’t 3K, but it’s still colder than the surface.

      In addition, if you make the system such that it only is able to absorb at long wavelengths, this works during the day, too, because the Sun’s not emitting much at those frequencies anyway. So the sky still looks relatively cold. It’s important to remember that for objects other than blackbodies, they can have different ‘temperatures’ at different wavelengths: the sky’s 3 K at microwave frequencies, for instance, but ~10,000 K at ~MHz frequencies thanks to noise from the Galactic plane.

      If you google for “Harvesting renewable energy from Earth’s mid-infrared emissions” you’ll find a paper that actually does the thermodynamic calculations for it. The actual power you can get out of it is… low, but not zero (~watts per square meter), and you can get it to “not godawful” (~20 W per square meter) using it as a solar-thermal setup as well (as in, you imagine having something like a solar oven heat the hell out of something when the Sun’s up so your ‘hot side’ is even hotter).

      Still sucks compared to actual solar, but who knows, because it’s an antenna you could maybe build it into a solar panel and you’ll at least get *some* power at night.

      1. Pat – “Still sucks compared to actual solar, but who knows, because it’s an antenna you could maybe build it into a solar panel and you’ll at least get *some* power at night.”

        Read the paper https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468606917301739

        I don’t think this gadget is impacted by time of day nor weather, Ostensibly it works 7 x 24 in any conditions including over cast. It’s not aimed at the sun (or skyward), I think it’s aimed at the ground and harvest blackbody radiation from Earth.

          1. Pat – I was just quoting Bryan Cockfield (the author) – “While the scientists involved in this new concept point out that this is just a prototype at this point, it shows promise and could be a game-changer since it would allow clean energy to be harvested whenever needed, and wouldn’t rely on the prevailing weather.

            Of course you are correct Pat. I think Bryan (and I) don’t mean COMPLETE blackout when a cloud passes over. I think it could be assumed that the direct conversion would be briefly reduced but it the system was collecting the aggregate electricity in a storage medium, that scenario would be averaged out.

    5. Rick Bryan – Sorry no “woo” factor here… The paper clearly spells it out. You don’t need to make conjectures about it: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468606917301739

      It is PRODUCING (or generating) electricity from IR radiation much the same was a PV cell does the same with visible light from the Sun. So I don’t see the “thermodynamics violation” you are assuming. Also it is not a “heat engine”. The Earth is the blackbody radiation heat engine in this scenario. The device only converts that radiation to electricity. And the researchers never mention QT.

      1. “And the researchers never mention QT.”

        The entire design is a tunneling diode. As in, quantum tunneling across the junction. So…. you might’ve missed something. That’s the only way the diode can respond at THz frequencies. I mean, it’s a keyword in the actual paper.

        1. PAT – I only meant the EXACT phrase “Quantum Tunneling” is not used in the article. I know there may be some allusion to it like Electron Tunneling and Quantum Mechanical Simulators but the MIM diode is NOT a theoretical construct deserving the pejorative term “woo”. The MIM diode is a industry standard (invented in 1948 by Torey and others). These guys didn’t use woo-factor to use it. I agree these guys may need more refinement in making science papers. There are a few misspellings and maybe some of their physics explanations may need a better technical wordsmith – just IMO.

          So in summary, I’m not saying QT is not a factor in the use of a MIM diode. It may not be QT but maybe “thermal activation”. But either way I just take umbrage to the use of the phrase “woo” when describing anything these guys are doing here. There’s nothing “magical” in their thinking.

          1. No, look, you really don’t understand. Electron tunneling is quantum tunneling. No one uses the phrase “quantum tunneling” there because it’s implied. The electrons are tunneling through the barrier formed by the narrow depletion region. They do this because quantum mechanically, they can’t be completely confined, and some portion of the wavefunction leaks from one doped region to the other. That’s the way the diode works.

            MIM describes the *construction* of the diode (metal-insulator-metal), not the *behavior* of the diode, which is what the term ‘tunnel diode’ is. They created a tunnel diode using a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) construction method. And yes, this is an example of poor wording in the text. How do I know they created a tunnel diode? Because they said so! “with a 0.7 nm copper oxide insulator between them to facilitate electron tunneling without any applied bias”. Zero bias tunneling = tunnel diode.

            “There’s nothing “magical” in their thinking.”

            As for the “woo” term, yes, using it to suggest that something magic is going on here is wrong. But it’s also pretty nuts to believe that you can sculpt the barrier of a tunnel diode enough to effectively act as an ambient IR receiver. Quantum tunneling is cool, but you can’t fix the fact that the tunneling just isn’t going to work very well: it’s got a ~100 kohm resistance, after all, so you’ve got a massive problem matching the antenna to it.

          2. I was wondering about the optimal antenna coupling (resonance, SWR, impedance, reactance, resistivity, etc.) with the IR range for the AC induced by the electric field, or electrons, for one step in the process… then now the “electron or quantum tunneling” makes more sense for the second step. Kind of duh thinking about more. I’m recalling watching a video on how transistors work and technically diodes for the rectification. Thanks for the reminder.

          3. jafinch78 – After reading the paper again, I’m not sure where you are getting this idea that this device is some sort of transmitter rather than just a convoluted receiver and DC converter. Yes resonance, impedance, and resistivity is involved in thier description but SWR, reactance, etc, I’m not so sure. Optical rectification through an Al2O3 (aluminum oxide) based MIM (diode) passive rectenna at 28.3 THz is all I got from it and that is just an IR EMF-based receiver. I’m also not getting the AC (alternating current) from it. I’m not sure ambient IR is considered AC even though they are uncharacteristically viewing IR as EMF. The device’s electrical generation is DC right off of the tips of the bowtie antenna Au/Ti junction. I hope I haven’t misanalyzed their work.

            This is one of those “out-of-the-box” things smart people like yourself may have to think “sea change” and “game changer”. The ARRL may not be ready to put this in their Handbook just yet. Maybe one day… :-)

          4. sonofthunderboanerges: I’ll clarify: “After reading the paper again, I’m not sure where you are getting this idea that this device is some sort of transmitter rather than just a convoluted receiver and DC converter.”

            I didn’t mention transmitter. I mentioned antenna, however you maybe assume an antenna is only for a transmitter or something? No biggy. I’ll further elaborate.

            Think two tuning fork’s that are the same note/frequency/wavelength are like two antennas where you can ring one antenna to create oscillations/vibrations that transmit and sympathetically resonate the second antenna. Technically, there can be rotations, vibrations, magnetic transitions and electric transitions. The IR is dominated by vibrations to simplify the detail.

            Sympathetic resonance occurs from the ringing/frequency/wavelength of the “earth” oscillations/vibrations creating “IR” range EMF in AC that the nano-gold-titanium bowtie antenna sympathetically resonates with is what I meant.

            Recall, from the range of microwaves on up… there are interesting wireless effects like magic dots and the bowtie doesn’t have to be constructed in the traditional connected dipole way where one bow is a ground plane and the other bow is the monopole driving element. There are wireless coupling effects going on even with an insulator of Al2O3 in the middle.

            Typically, the quantum mechanical energy effects in the IR range are “vibrational” hence AC. I don’t think they’re ionizing “electronic transition” effects like more in the VIS or higher frequencies where a photon emission or optics use of photons is involved or plasma or coronal discharge of electrons or higher frequencies.

            You may be correct somehow, I am not sure regarding the terms optics and plasmonic effects yet. Magic Woo fit’s in here.

            I assumed AC effect on the bowtie dipoles that constitutes the antenna, then the diode portion was “rectifying” to DC that consists of Al2O3 in between the tips of the bowties since the calculated gap is filled with Al2O3 that causes a low permisivity dielectric effect to create a one way electron flow diode effect (maybe this has something to do with electrons in a plasma and something photon ion going on and electric tunneling that isn’t woo… I’m still not comprehending yet). CuO didn’t work and was used prior is noted also.

            The above paragraph is noted in the last paragraph of section 1 and later section 2.2.1 clearly: “…enabled us to demonstrate a 28.3 THz MIM diode based rectenna where the antenna can pick up the signal (verified by polarization sensitive output of the rectenna) and the MIM diode can provide optical rectification (verified by the zero bias responsivity and calculations).”

            Section 2.2.2 describes the MIM diode very clearly: “…design requires a MIM diode at the center of the bowtie antenna through overlapping of the antenna arms, it is important to also run the simulations with the overlapped configuration of the rectenna, as shown in Fig. 3(a). For this study, the optimized antenna dimensions obtained from the electromagnetic simulations are used but with a very thin insulator layer (Al2O3) sandwiched between the two overlapped antenna arm tips. The peak field intensity of the antenna is shifted to larger wavelength when the antenna arms are overlapped when air is used as the insulating layer in between them. However, the shift in peak intensity of the antenna introduced by the overlap is compensated by the introduction of a low permittivity dielectric, as shown in Fig. 3(b). Computed antenna efficiency and resistance values are shown in Fig. 3(c). Our simulation showed that for our particular stack we are getting a radiation efficiency of around 11% and an antenna resistance (RA) of ∼55 Ω.”

            I comprehend what is going on. This isn’t something new. Reminds me actually more of microwave radar or wireless power transmission bowtie or dipole antennas with unique higher frequency properties that result from air gaps or in this case a material gap that is rectifying the antenna AC received signal directly nanoscopically.

            Dude, Pfizer wanted to hire me to work on picoliter dosing in combinatorial diagnostics to test effecacy of drug candidates on target cells/entities. That is to me bs small man. They had faith in theoretically limits with me that make me even go… huh??? Efficacy of compounds down to below a cell size. I thought, man, are you cheap… or actually cost effective or… higher risk that I can’t even bs. I’m not good at bs unless I am not comprehending something and completely wrong. I’ll admit I don’t understand and am wrong when I am. No problem. I love, like and lust learning sometimes if not most the time.

            This is still nano scale so not quite molecular machine scale and single or picodrop cellular bs scale. Here is an idea of perspective of size ranges we’re dealing with. So think dominance of quantum mechanical energy effects like I said before, i.e. magnetic, rotational, vibrational and electric. If you think in regards to IR spectra of molecules… then maybe a single molecule antenna is more efficient for certain ranges with molecular antenna design theory coming into factor. I think spiral conical antenna will be more efficient though not 100% confident I am correct.



          5. jafinch78 – What got me started on the “transmitter” thing is when you said SWR (standing wave ratio). That is usually associated with transmitters not receivers. This thing is just a glorified IR receiver. I didn’t see the relevance to SWR. You seem to have a good grasp of the paper. I still think they are leaving something out. Not sure just what yet.

            BTW, your use of the acronym “bs” makes me think you meant bullsh*t. But reading your subsequent context it’s not so clear to me anymore. Did you mean BS in that context? (BS being deliberate falsehood, lie, or con-job.) Or did you mean something else? Colorful metaphors don’t go well in science-type discussions I think. :-)

            I used to visit Pfizer in NLON before they moved. I met this chemist who swore on the overall health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Come to find out it is an ancient cure all.

          6. sonofthunderboanerges: I was tired and I’m used to tuning antennas with a directional coupler and for SWR even on though I only receive and haven’t performed an amateur licensed transmission yet.

            I wasn’t sure if there is some DC antenna and DC-DC rectification (though converter naming I think is convention in some parts) phenomena that you were going to counter with that I didn’t notice yet as I was still in a “woo” period of comprehension. Like a photo diode using the term antenna.

            I’d think of those off the top of my head not reading lately… are backwards in operation of the energy level electron transition that releases a photon, i.e. a photon takes the electron from a materials energy level down and the either a wave for DC pulse or DC is produced. I’m not sure regarding the electronic transition quantum mechanical energy systems without reading again in detail.

            This reminds me of literal reverse utility engineering hacking thinking like displays are transmitters and trying to use them as receivers potential.

            Not sure really… though is interesting using adjust a wing ag grow light or other grow light reflectors with dewars to heat and cook food literally.

            Good to see you on HaD again. Haven’t had a thorough discussion with you lately and now Uzbekistan is in the news.

          7. sonofthunerboanerges: Vain t rub. Huuh… was that ironic discussion timing or what? Great call. :) Lily huh? Reminds me of my lilypad days. Day’s when farming wasn’t so bad. It’s what coming around the farm that bites.

          8. sonofthunderboanerges: I was fatigued/tired and want to apologize for being rude. Pfizer has some great scientists… and I may even work for them some day as I have interviewed at more than one of their sites in the past and worked with more than one also. Eekk… mood disorder emotional magnification issue. I’m wise and logical now. :-)

          9. sonofthunderboanerges – I was eyeing La Jolla at one time, though when I was talking with scientists there… there wasn’t many if any openings. I think that was before the zNose systems were out also. I almost was thinking about administrating a generic Viagra business… looks like Teva is going to prior to the exclusivity period for the Viagra dose form label claim and I kind of think that isn’t really the most ethical business to get into.

            Like all the high dollar business ideas I give away… I just do that and prefer to advocate inspiration of other potential consumer grade marketable products and services. The curse of the scientist and I’m guessing that’s why some would yell at me encouraging rather screwed that I need to go to business school and some encouraged law school though seemed more positive on that if business related. I wanted to go to med school… though am learning pro se law to clean up free loading official looking criminals I grew up around. Zoetis seems interesting and I think they have the horse farms still from the old Upjohn, Pharmacia, Pfizer outfit in Kalamazoo not to far from where I grew up. I’m liking the more bio-equivalent medicine and I think the Kalamazoo plants were hiring or at least had open positions.

          10. Pat – So in your last paragraph you see what my major rub is. I’m not debating that these guys are not thinking QT or ET. I was just balking at that woo comment. Do you have anything to say about the “thermal activation” comment I made? Some FRG (German) scientists suggest that the MIM diode possibly not using QT at all.

            In the final analysis these guys are recording sub-1 volt (and current) readings with a CO2 LASER shining on the array. If after reading their paper, what explanation do you have for why it’s doing it? Woo? (And please don’t say Seebeck Effect as they addressed that in the paper).

          11. The rectenna device itself works: if you shine a laser on it you get some electrical power out (not much, but there’s a lot of improvements that can be made). No woo there. The problem I have is not with the device, but with the application. It’s supposed to produce power just by absorbing ambient IR — “harvesting energy from the earth’s waste heat”.

            Imagine a lab. All its parts are in thermal equilibrium, which is maintained by mutual exchange of heat by conduction, convection, and radiation. In particular, everything is constantly emitting and absorbing IR, with net zero (otherwise it wouldn’t be in equilibrium).

            Now examine the rectenna, open circuit. It too is emitting and absorbing ambient IR. Now close the switch that connects it to an electrical load. The rectenna is supposed to snag a fraction of the ambient IR (“waste heat”) that’s bouncing around, and relocate that power to the electrical load. By absorbing (and not re-emitting) some of the IR, the rectenna will cool its immediate vicinity. The electrical power that it produces will warm the load elsewhere. Passively cool one place and warm another. That’s the thermodynamic problem I have.

            The fact that quantum tunneling explains how the device itself works only confuses the matter. Fancy physics in the device masks thermodynamic fallacy in the application. That confusion is what is “woo-friendly”

          12. Heat travels from more heat to less heat to achieve equilibrium at STP and in a relative vacuum; versus say an absolute vacuum where there isn’t anything to resonate, conduct, convect or radiate through.

            So, imagine we’re at STP for the environments elevation or in a manufacturing operation with some relative vacuum and range of mass environment in the component sealed system.

            I want to say electric and magnetic fields and electrons will following the path of least resistance, say like with most mass and energy transfer and may relate to Fermats Principle ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat%27s_principle ) and Huygen Fresnel Principle ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huygens%E2%80%93Fresnel_principle ) or some other principle I can’t think off at the moment relating to elementary particles and forces energy.

            Therefore, that is why materials science deals with mass and accommodating the energy forces I guess from a physics stand point think like the physicists period table standard model in the range of study to “cause” the path of least resistance to have the “effect” of induced current from an electric and magnetic field.

            Like first, you have an antenna so you want to be theoretically as least resistive and most conductive as possible and tune to the range you want to flow or sympathetically resonate with. Attracting the electric and magnetic field and I guess you can say other standard model forces like is more obvious with higher mass objects relative to STP and environmental masses as can be observed with gravitational force.

            Nano components however have different force variables relative magnitude for the direction desired and effect desired based on the system.

          13. Rick Bryan – I see your dilemma. You seem to be giving too much credence to 19th century men who at best were only guessing at things they really didn’t understand well. Maxwell’s demon to me is just one human with evolving benighted-ness from yet another benighted soul(s). The sum scientific acumen today is arguably just more of the same with much more “fancy” words to mask the intrinsic benighted-ness (which is just a testament to our haughty main stream academia today). Sorry for the dime-store philosophical angst. Just blowing off steam – maybe this gadget could collect it and make electricity?

            I’m not buying that this gadget “cools” it’s collection area by absorbing ambient heat. Since the researchers are extending EMF “woo” to an optical entity (i.e. IR), I need to use this analogy: Does the TV RF signal (EMF) decrease in the presence of a whole city of rooftop antennas collecting EMF from the sky? I don’t think there is any measurable EMF reduction in signal strength from the antenna arrays in the neighborhood. I think that is just another case of being scientifically benighted and faking that we know better.(I’m not aiming this at anyone in particular – this is a broad philosophical observation on my part)

            I also do not believe this IR-PV rectenna is RE-emitting anything. The parabola back-plane used may be doing that but the nano bowtie is not. At least nothing measurable with our equipment today. I agree with you that QT may be assumed too much to be a part of this things operation. A small group of scientists in Germany think the MIM diode’s operation is not QT at all. They are doing research to POSSIBLY prove it is thermal activation versus QT. But who knows how much benighted-ness befalls them too.

            Footnote: Yes I know benighted-ness is my own coinage – sorry. Please do not think I am insulting anyone here I am not..

          14. sonofthunderboanerges:

            Granted, physicists even admit there are forces that need to be better understood to understand all of the physics in the universe.

            However, again… at STP in our environment… try an experiment with a transmitter and receiver to see if the coupling changes the magnitude and even direction if you can measure direction say with a phased array or dopler radar or a circular disposed antenna array like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AN/FLR-9.

            I wonder if using two tuning fork’s and an accurate microphone can detect when the second sympathetically resonating fork is resonating and maybe even distance once the system is constrained and modeled.

            I’ve heard from word of mouth… utility and radio and TV stations have engineers, or they have dummied down meter systems, that can detect receivers even. Different huh?

            “Does the TV RF signal (EMF) decrease in the presence of a whole city of rooftop antennas collecting EMF from the sky? I don’t think there is any measurable EMF reduction in signal strength from the antenna arrays in the neighborhood.”

            Yes, this is how passive systems work. Especially, if you can measure the background environment in critical attention to detail. I think this is why satellite perimeter weather station systems were implemented. I am only guessing though.

          15. jafinch78 – The FLR-9 was retired for more “advanced” RDF technology??? Like what? HF RDF is tricky and using Doppler RDF is problematic due to multi-path rejection and other related stuff – especially with HF signals. The FLR-9 could give you instant location to a HF target up to to 4k miles away using several diverse FLR-9 stations. Maybe it’s a technology over my pay grade? :-)

            · Are you a chemist with STP? If not what is STP?

            · The microphone non-steerable DF technology is a feature with ShotSpotter® and Amazon/Alexa (Echo). Don’t ask me to explain how they work. WAY over my head!

            · You can detect and RDF superhetrodyne receivers via their local oscillators. It was featured in the movie Enemy of the State with Gene Hackman and Will Smith.

            · My point about massive amounts rooftop consumer TV antennas between you and the radio/TV station, should NOT impact your reception UNLESS it was due to multi-path reflections off of them. Diversity antennas help counteract multi-path rejection (fading). I was just trying to make the point that co-attenuation is usually not a thing when you ha multiplicity or plethora of co-bowtie nano-antennas next to each other in an array, But other factors like proximity capacitance or hand-effect may be a problem. But we are talking about 28.3 Thz not RF. Not sure.

          16. sonofthunderboanerges et.al.: I’d guess satellite operations or interpolating other existing stations as I’d wonder rather vocally at one time that we better be doing that since China was bragging they had a way better passive system than we did and didn’t have to invest in additional systems operations. They’d just I’d guess use their Cyber 100,000 plus team to hack everything out and study perturbations in the existing patterned fields.

            Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP). Materials have unique different effects at different relative temperatures and pressures of their environment.

            I’m not sure about ShotSpotter® and Amazon/Alexa (Echo), I’ll read into. I’d guess direction from microphones if multiple or the microphone design having multiple elements unless somehow patterns are modeled in the room from standard locations and effect on microphone.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_RAFTER is something I just noticed when reading to see if wikipedia disclosed my guess on satellite operations or my other theory. My other guess is liberals that are easily blackmailed and exhorted trashed out the U.S. detection capabilities to play stupid sodomizing molest everything they can back to pan troglodyte narco terrorist third world. Kind of like they’re doing or did with the FCC enforcement. Liberal periods turn into Roman Coliseum knight mares. They look cute… though you know how deadly certain operations operatives get themselves into or come from not realizing the severity of they acts for long term survival. They think narrow minded suicidal almost.

            Yeah, I’m not sure either… I think they do effect signals from an inductance effect more-so. The really technical details systems get really detailed with all the systems variables (external, boundary and internal) inputs, processes and outputs through the defined range of what’s being quantified or qualified. Need a clearer definition of operations in the system or effects can be confusing to detail. Thinking not so much capacitance skin electric effects and more inductance magnetic effects.

  7. The Thermocouple on your gas water heater uses much the same effect and is remarkably inefficient. That inefficiency works to our advantage in the terms of safety,
    I agree that this seems to be much of the same effect here, just much more refined, it doesn’t need as large of a temperature differential, could even be zero since at the quantum level, you don’t really have heat as you know it. This trick of math lets the infrared “push” a little, allowing the tuned receiving antennae to pile it on as it were. The problem with designing the antenna was probably due to the range of infrared beginning in the 700-800 nm range and going to 1 mm in wavelength. Of course the smaller wavelength will have more energy than the larger ones, so they have to tune it for a specific part of the infrared band, this means very careful placement of the antennas. very clever.

    BUT! I do have one question, Any circuit, to be complete, has to have 4 basic components, (1) a power source (2) a load (3) a way to get the power to the load (4) and a way to get the power back to the circuit to compete it, no one has addressed that last part yet. I’m not ready to call bullshit yet on this, it’s still in the testing phase, we don’t know how much output there will be, whole arrays may be needed just to get a single watt of useful energy. And will there be any waste heat as a result. Will it only be able to charge cell phones and high efficiency motors? I have a lot of questions of course. Like maybe it’s more of a tuned casimir antenna?

    This could almost be reclassified as quantum thermodynamics, and since the ground temperature is fairly regular based on which state you reside, you could get an antenna, they call it the “rectenna,” that can be designed for underground use that’s tuned to your area.

    I guess the name “rectenna” is appropriate, since they will most likely be sticking it where the sun don’t shine.

    1. Why should the inefficiency of the thermocouple increase safety? The thermocouple increases our safety, despite it’s inefficiency, it is efficient enough for this job. But Themocouples have an efficiency in the magnitude of 10^-2, not 10^-14, that is 12 decades better then this rectenna. (rectifier-antenna).

  8. This is like a spark gap receiver, when people had just started to investigate radio waves.
    The next step will be making Tesla coils that are resonant in the terahertz range.
    An array of those, maybe grown from a forest of carbon nano tubes on a plate capacitor with a bucky ball for the top load. Something akin to a flame diode arranged like a decatron with a resonant cavity to decant the various frequencies into something a little more coherent and easier to use.

    1. Thankfully, the sky is incredibly cold at these frequencies. So you’ve got a hot bath of the Earth (300 K) and a cold bath of the sky (3K). It can be weird to think of temperature as being a function of frequency, but that’s what happens with antennas.

        1. It’s an easy task for an antenna.

          The difficult part is doing it at all frequencies. That’s what you need for a refrigerator: absorbing ambient heat from 10-12 microns from a box and re-emitting elsewhere isn’t going to cool an object.

    2. snarkysparky – I think you may be conflating “sensitivity” with “photovoltaic ability”. The paper explains in detail:

      The device is producing electricity at a junction (of sorts) from exposing the array to heat (aka IR). I would think “cooling” it is unnecessary. Yes cooling a Passive IR detector is good for it’s overall IR sensitivity but not in this scenario. I think the concept is to aim the array at the ground instead of the sky. They are trying to collect (harvest) solar IR reflection from the ground – I think. They mention the Seebeck Effect but try to show, in the paper, that their idea is not the same. It only looks that way to the project’s benighted ones.

      1. No, you aim the array at the sky. You’re effectively beaming the IR from the ground out into space, and stealing some of it along the way. Which sounds completely insane, but if you think about it as a diode, the temperature difference allows some power to spill from the “load” (which is hot) to the “source” (which is cold), and not backwards (so they can’t equilibrate). Then you can do work the same way as a heat engine does.

        The *load* of the antenna is hot, but the antenna itself is whatever the sky temperature is. Or, to quote (again, from here):

        “However, an antenna is different: As long as its radiation efficiency (ratio of radiation resistance to total resistance) is high, its electrical noise temperature equals the brightness temperature of the incoming radiation field.”

        In the test described in this specific paper, they operated it like a normal rectenna (shine the infrared on the antenna) but if you wanted to use it to harvest ambient IR, you’d want to point the rectenna at the sky, so it sees 3 K, whereas the “load” of the antenna sees whatever the ground’s temperature is. If you do it the other way around, the rectenna will see the ground, and the “load” of the antenna will see whatever the atmosphere’s temperature is. So you’d only get a tiny temperature difference.

        1. PAT- OK I can agree with you on this. However, the reader needs to know that the array does not require a southerly exposure to get sunlight. The researchers in their paper hint at pointing it at artificial (anthro-) heat sources I can only assume they mean at buildings and such with all their waste heat. The article does not go into detail about that. But the thing about using a CO2 LASER is NOT the standard model as to how it will operate in production. I think that is only a testing instrument to replicate real-life operation. I would think they would use parabola reflectors and turnable mirrors that you see at solar heat boilers in the deserts. So me saying aiming at the ground was probably only half-right. You could ostensibly aim it at a number of heat sources in any direction. I don’t think these researchers at Univ of Colorado and Saudi Arabia have gotten that far yet.

          1. “The researchers in their paper hint at pointing it at artificial (anthro-) heat sources I can only assume they mean at buildings and such with all their waste heat.”

            You always would want to point the object to gain the biggest temperature difference possible between the antenna and the load. But you *have* to have a temperature difference. You can’t just stick this inside a building to extract energy from the waste heat in the building. You need to have it *outside*, where it can couple to a cold reservoir.

            And which direction you point to depends on the heat source. If you’re trying to capture it from the ground, which is all around you (so you want the widest possible ‘beam’) you make the antenna cold and load hot and point it at the sky. If you’re trying to capture it from a hot object, which is only in one direction (like a building or something) you make the antenna hot and the load cold, and point it at the hot object. Make sense?

            ” I would think they would use parabola reflectors and turnable mirrors that you see at solar heat boilers in the deserts.”

            The problem is that once you’re talking about large heat differences, you’re *way* better off using conventional heat engine methods just like a solar thermal plant, because fundamentally, they’re not “narrowband” like a rectenna would be. The incident power available is more, so even if the overall efficiency is a bit less (due to coupling to the ‘colder’ radiation field available skyward and a less ideal heat engine) there’s more available power.

            Honestly, again, this is never going to be used for large-scale power generation. It’s just going to be used for powering ambient stuff, like sensors or something. Spacecraft, maybe. But not large-scale stuff. That part is just fluff in the article for making it sound more interesting to people.

  9. I’ve read through most of the postings here and I’m not let down as reading a typical HaD slug-fest. After reading the paper from the students who are researching this, it boils down to NOT an argument about quantum tunneling (that particular phrase is never used in the paper), anthropogenic climate change (aka Global Warming), nor is it a herculean wasted effort to prove something like “cold fusion”. This is IR Harvesting. This is like one poster up there aptly said “like photovoltaics with IR” (/paraphrase) – this is a groundbreaking GAME CHANGER! We all need to monitor these students’ progress as it will revolutionize the fossil fuel energy industry – and unfortunately that may not be good for them…

    Here is the paper. Please pour over it and get a good understanding of the salient points and not “butcher” the semantics as many of you are doing. If I insulted anyone I apologize. I just like thinking outside the box to attain accurate knowledge.Not quibbling over factoids not in evidence.

    This is a PDF from ELSEVIER. It redirects you to Science Direct web page. Just click on Download PDF above the word materialstoday in upper left corner.: https://goo.gl/Bs4Qxj You could just read the SD page though. I just like PDF’s. :-)

    1. “this is a groundbreaking GAME CHANGER! We all need to monitor these students’ progress as it will revolutionize the fossil fuel energy industry”

      Ambient IR harvesting is thermodynamically limited to ~few watts/square meter. It’s not going to touch the fossil fuel industry. In the absolute best case (which… this isn’t) it might be competitive with solar panels in higher latitudes.

      This is more of a semiconductor research paper rather than a paper on energy technologies. If you want to understand where this technology can ultimately go, look at this one

      1. Pat – Of course I’m not saying this device is a threat in it’s present form. This is just in it’s infancy. I just saying if these guys can get this thing to be sustainable and work at higher electricity amounts than it MIGHT be a future threat, however PV’s have proven not to be a threat to the oil-industry yet. The salient point is that if they could generate PV rates 7 x 24 and store it in batteries or other storage medium, it would be like a major coupe.

        The collectors would ostensibly be a HUGE array (over acres of land) aimed down at the ground. And they haven’t even figured out how to get the voltage out to a serious load. So far just four-point volt/ammeters and it is only below 1-volt per bow tie antenna. They have a VERY long way to go to get this thing workable as a threat to the oil industry. Of course the funding will stop just at the right point just like the “cold fusion” guys mentioned here in this thread. That’s just the nature of the beast.

        1. “The salient point is that if they could generate PV rates 7 x 24 and store it in batteries or other storage medium, it would be like a major coupe.”

          Let me make this clear again:

          Ambient IR harvesting is thermodynamically limited to ~few watts/square meter. It can’t reach PV rates. Not possible. Not even close. It can’t even reach *average* 24-hour PV power. This is not a technical limitation. It’s physics.

          1. Pat-“It can’t reach PV rates. Not possible. Not even close. It can’t even reach *average* 24-hour PV power. This is not a technical limitation. It’s physics.”

            I agree with you. However, I was talking about a combination of the IR Harvesting device coupled with a storage medium like batteries, etc. Furthermore, the present prototype can’t compete with anything. They have many years (maybe decades) of research yet. And I was only referring to competing with PV in that IR-PV would be less impacted by weather and time of day. But no one can say yet until the researchers tell us more about the gadget. Are we sure that they are being 100% transparent? I mean who does that before patenting?

          2. This is the *24-hour averaged power*. Which means we’re already talking about batteries.

            And I’m talking about the 24-hour averaged power of an ambient IR device operating at perfect Carnot efficiency, compared to a *real* PV panel, with real efficiency, averaged over the *year*, taking into account weather and time of day.

            Which means when you add batteries, PV panels win *more*. The main place where this would be useful is if you had a situation where you *didn’t* have batteries (or a grid) to average out the PV efficiency. Could be useful at the South Pole during winter, for instance, if you’re capturing the IR off of the ice. That I could see. It also could be useful if it ends up being significantly cheaper than a PV panel, even if it’s less efficient. You could easily imagine making roof tiles or something out of them. Which isn’t great – you’re still talking about only ~1 kW or so.

            “Furthermore, the present prototype can’t compete with anything. ”

            I still don’t think you understand what I’m saying. I’m not talking about the device referenced in the paper. It doesn’t matter how efficient or advanced they make this device. This is basic physics we’re talking about. Even if the device becomes *as efficient as it could possibly be*, it will never be able to capture more than ~few watts per square meter. These people aren’t using new physics. They’re using well-understood physics, and the thermodynamics of the setup have been figured out for a while now.

        2. Mind if I point out a little flaw in your example, “The collectors would ostensibly be a HUGE array (over acres of land) aimed down at the ground.”

          I think you forgot that these collectors themselves are at ambient temperature, and therefor have their own IR radiation associated with them. In other words, you can place a second array on top of your first and a third on top of that, and so on. These layers of collectors secondly don’t need to be spaced with more then the wavelength of the radiation one is aiming to collect. Meaning that we likely can place a few hundred layers per feet. And then continue building it vertically for many yards. Effectively reducing your acres of land to the size of a few shipping containers. I have so far not calculated how the actual reduction of area will end up, since that is rather pointless at current. We know that a reduction in area will happen, and how much is not all too interesting.

          And yes, this block will likely get colder then ambient internally, and some heating pipes going through it might be useful. Not to mention that such a device would likely and quickly find its way into office buildings, shopping malls, and other areas where cooling is desired. Since there it gives two services at once, and therefor has a higher value associated with the power it collects. Meaning that it can carry a higher production cost then if it were solely for power.

          1. “I think you forgot that these collectors themselves are at ambient temperature, and therefor have their own IR radiation associated with them. In other words, you can place a second array on top of your first and a third on top of that, and so on.”

            Yeah… no. No magic free energy here. Carnot efficiency. If you put a layer on top of the first one, you reduce the efficiency of both of them combined to less than the original. The original efficiency is (1-Tc/Th). If you put some layer above, now *its* Th is your Tc, and its Tc is your original Tc. You don’t make things better. You make it way worse.

          2. Pat, I see what you are getting at, but it doesn’t apply in this area.

            If we were looking at a sterling engine, then yes, a seeback generator, then yes as well.

            But the idea of rectifying IR radiation and turning that high frequency power into DC, is different then a normal heat engine.

            Since we do not rely on any heat difference, but rather on the fact that we can take the heat energy and turn it directly into usable power. Yes, this is a practical Maxwell’s daemon.

            But since we do not rectify 100% of the IR energy that hits our generator, then the rest is left to heat and reflect off our generator.

            Then the next thing is thermal conduction, and the pure fact that our generator is also having a temperature and emits its own thermal radiation too, will give us the ability to collect the energy reflected off and emitted from our prior generator. Each generator taking out X percent of the energy that hits it. Do note that X is normally tiny.

            Do note, even the humble doide can be used as a practical Maxwell’s daemon, but they typically don’t go all the way into the THz region. But people might argue that it will rectify cosmic background or the local Radio station, since thermal radiation at “low” (sub 10’s GHz) frequencies aren’t that noticeable.

          3. “But the idea of rectifying IR radiation and turning that high frequency power into DC, is different then a normal heat engine.”

            No, it really, really, really isn’t! It’s totally a heat engine. The antenna sees one temperature. The load sees another temperature. If they’re the same temperature, no current flows. Noise temperature means a certain level of fluctuation in the voltage : you can turn temperature into an RMS noise voltage for a given impedance level. Now imagine it with a (perfect) diode. If you have the same fluctuations on either side of the diode, *nothing happens*. If you’ve got more fluctuation on the right side of the diode, current flows, and it can’t flow back. Guess what? That’s a heat engine.

            *All* methods of generating power can be viewed as heat engines. Even the Shockley-Queisser limit for photovoltaics is essentially a heat-engine balance. If the silicon is too hot, the thermal voltage exceeds the open circuit voltage, and you get no power. But as with antennas, a PV panel is essentially extracting energy from the difference between a very hot (5000-6000K) radiation field and a very weak (300K) radiation field.

            “Since we do not rely on any heat difference, but rather on the fact that we can take the heat energy and turn it directly into usable power. Yes, this is a practical Maxwell’s daemon.”

            Yes, of course you rely on a heat difference! If you point your antenna to 3K sky and your load is at 300K, you’re not going to be able to get any power flowing from the sky to the load, because you’ll leak more power *back* than you can ever extract. But guess what? You can get power flowing from the load to the sky, and steal some of it for work. That’s what this is doing. But you need the load *and* the sky to do this! You can’t have the load at 300K and point it at a 300K source.

            Remember, temperature here doesn’t mean the actual ‘broadband’ temperature – what you normally think of as temperature. It’s just the temperature of the antenna within its band. It’s what the antenna couples to.

            Look here: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/11/3927

            This is the way this thing works. Figure 4. I think the problem most people are having is that they don’t understand that antennas couple to the radiation field that they see, not the ambient temperature that they’re in. A microwave antenna pointed at the sky is at 3 K, not at 300 K.

            Now, the reason this thing isn’t thunderously efficient (a 3K/300K heat engine is 99% efficient) is because you’re not working at microwave: you’re working at IR, where the atmosphere isn’t even close to transparent. So you don’t have a 3K/300K heat engine. It’s more like 280/290, or about 4% efficient.

            “Do note, even the humble doide can be used as a practical Maxwell’s daemon, but they typically don’t go all the way into the THz region.”

            No, it can’t! People have been making this mistake for *years*. Thermal motion of the electrons/holes in any real diode prevent current flow with zero voltage at any given temperature.

            Now, if the diode is somehow *colder* on one side than the other, then sure you can get current flow. And guess what? That’s what this is! It’s a THz diode, made possible by quantum tunneling using a trick known for years, coupled to an infrared antenna which ends up being at a lower temperature than the diode/load, which means that you can get current to flow.

            But you need the temperature difference! Thankfully, we live in an age where the Universe is cold and dark, and we live on a hot planet. So we have one ready-made for us. But you *cannot* just ‘extract, extract, extract’. It doesn’t work that way. It *never* does.

  10. I think it’s great that people spend their time and resources on alternative energy sources. It will take several lifetimes before any really make a huge dent in our fossil fuel consumption. Fossil fuels are just cheap and simple, compared to anything else. Have to be kind of rich, and plenty of spare time, to go fossil free, to impress all your hip, and trendy progressive friends.

    Think most people really sense the Global Warming hype/hoax. It’s a non-issue, used to sell another product, which is a great idea, just most people don’t like to be scammed into buying. Nothing better than cleaning up our living space, since we have no where to go, after trashing this planet. But really though, the planet has been warming, ice melting for over 10 thousand years, and still has way to go, before reaching the temperature range before the last great Ice Age. All that fossil crud we burn, came from an abundance of organic matter, that died and rotted. Seems to me that a warmer climate leads to an abundance of life, a good thing, right?

    It’s pretty cool, these guys get the funding to chase a dream, which probably won’t amount to much in their lifetime, but could lay the ground work for others. Maybe this one isn’t the bast, but something similar might pop up in the process.

    I’d really like to see something that could be used as a roofing material, to collect energy. There is so much unused surface area just sitting there, that could be easy to make something we all use. May not be able to produce all the energy we use, but it’s ‘Free’ energy, as it’s always there, whether we use it or not. The collection equipment isn’t free, well considering the generosity of our progressive government, maybe someday.

    1. HarveyH54 – I guess you stumbled into our web site from Google, I guess. Nobody is going to reply to you so I’ll guess I will. Please watch this 2006 video which is over hour and half long. It was made by the former VPOTUS. If after watching it with discernment of a high-effort thinker, it would be surprising if you still believe what you said above: https://goo.gl/cAcDkc

      1. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Didn’t stumble, I read HAD pretty much every day. Al Gore’s movie was pretty much the main reason for my beliefs on the topic, he just ask us to take too much on faith, that he was selling concrete facts, which really didn’t sit well from a science point of view. And the urgent need to act, whether or not it is accurate and true, which I took to mean that there was considerable uncertainty. Politics and science don’t mix well fo me anyway.

  11. jafinch78 says:
    February 15, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    At about 2:30 I like the example from an electron perspective. Not really so much from an electric field perspective example however… though is interesting viewing as thermal activation perspective since the activation can be AC or DC related I’m thinking in analog and digital ways I’m thinking also. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ukDKVHnac4

    In this IR-PV scenario we need to stop thinking “switch”, “biased semiconductor gate”, etc. This is a game changer. That phrase actually means something important. It is a sea change way of thinking.

    This thing is purported to change ambient IR (heat) into a small electric charge like a PV cell does. Even though “semiconductors” are seem to be involved that’s where it ends. There’s no switching and no amplification – only DIRECT CONVERSION. It’s difficult to think of this thing like a transistor or a radio. Even though it smells like one it’s not.

    1. sonofthunderboanerges: Your missing the point that the rectifier is what creates the Direct Current (DC) from the Alternating Current (AC). “Bridge diode rectifier” I think is the term.

      So in the video displaying the diode circuit… think of the battery as the load actually with another circuit in parallel between the battery and the antenna so the battery is being charged when in circuit shorting the circuit.

      Technically, there is molecular electron switching going on I think is accurate.

      Electrically induced/coupled electron transition material state check valve for a one way switch maybe is a laymen the term?

  12. That crap ScienceAlert article mentions “quantum” eight times, and doesn’t mention elementary thermodynamics once.

    You can’t just harvest an unlimited thermodynamic free lunch from waste heat, there always needs to be some temperature difference between the source and the sink. You can’t just say “quantum” and expect people to lap it up.

    There is no amount of playing around with nanofabrication and surface plasmons that beats Carnot.


    This is a much better article IMO – it explains what they’re trying to do, a very similar idea to the other research group, and acknowledges that it’s a real heat engine, it’s bound by the laws of thermodynamics, and it’s interesting – but it’s not usefully efficient for anything.

    1. Before using the word “crap”, you might want to think a little further. Thermodynamics evolved from the consideration of the rules of statistics as they apply to the energy of motion of huge numbers of atoms. Quantum mechanics evolved from the consideration of the rules of statistics as they apply to individual, isolated energy transition events. The two have not been fully reconciled or unified to this day.

      You have heard of the “laws of thermodynamics” and you have heard of the “Laws of quantum behavior” but you have never heard of the “Laws of quantum thermodynamics”. Lots of theories, yes. Laws, no.

      Not to say people aren’t working on it, because there’s a Nobel prize in it for the physicist who figure it out.

      Quantum tunneling occurs when a particle tunnels through a barrier that it classically could not surmount. By definition. It is entirely possible that there is a chink in the armor of thermodynamics that would allow the devices we are talking about to do work. Do I believe it? Naaah… it’s too good to be true. But so were steam engines.

      1. “but you have never heard of the “Laws of quantum thermodynamics”. Lots of theories, yes. Laws, no.”

        This is just a terminology issue. If thermodynamics was derived nowadays, we wouldn’t have laws of thermodynamics, either. You don’t have laws of *anything* anymore, because we’ve learned to recognize that all of our theories typically have only limited regions of applicability.

        “Quantum tunneling occurs when a particle tunnels through a barrier that it classically could not surmount. By definition. It is entirely possible that there is a chink in the armor of thermodynamics that would allow the devices we are talking about to do work.”

        This device is a diode that works at THz frequencies because the barrier is very small, and electrons can tunnel through it rather than the way a normal diode typically works via conduction. Because the electrons don’t have to actually *go* anywhere (in a sense, they were ‘already there’ on one side of the junction) the devices can switch super-fast.

        But diodes don’t break thermodynamics, regardless of if they’re conventional diodes or tunnel diodes. Brillouin demonstrated that in 1950.

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