Throughout its history, mankind has regularly looked for new sources of energy production. After steam engines and the era of petroleum products and internal combustion engines, people figured out how to use the energy of the sun. Developments are being actively pursued in the field of electric motors and systems operating on pure hydrogen. But practically all of these, if I may say so, are “hot” processes. Is it possible to extract energy from the cold? Sounds incredible? Not at all!
How to get energy from the cold?
According to the editorial staff of Scitechdaily, scientists from the University of Los Angeles and Stanford University are responsible for the new development. According to the authors of the work, their device can use the dark time of the day (as well as, in the future, the cold of outer space) to create a renewable energy source.
The new device works thanks to the so-called thermoelectric effect. If we try to explain the essence of this effect without going into complex physical terms, then it arises as a result of the interaction of two materials with different temperatures. If these elements are correctly positioned relative to each other, then the temperature change at the interaction boundary can be converted into energy. At the same time, similar systems have existed for quite a long time, but their production is very difficult to "beat off the money", since rather expensive materials are used in their creation.
Based on this, the scientists designed their device in such a way that the simplest and cheapest components were used in their creation. The experimental power generator is based on an aluminum disc housed in a polystyrene casing. From above, the disc is covered by a window that transmits infrared and ultraviolet light, but does not release heat back. The design itself turned out to be quite small in size, so a small LED was connected to it for tests.
Scheme of the experimental setup.
As a result, it turned out that when the air temperature drops below zero, the warm aluminum disk begins to interact with the cold coming from the window. The temperature difference generates approximately 0.8 milliwatts of power, which corresponds to 25 milliwatts per square meter. This was enough for the small LED to work for quite a long time without additional power supplies.
The team of scientists believes that their system is quite easily scalable and now they are able to make an installation that will produce about 500 milliwatts per square meter. This will already be enough for, say, lighting rooms in the dark. At the same time, experts assure that in addition to lighting in the evening and at night, their device is suitable for generating electricity "wherever it is needed", including in outer space.