Taking Energy out of Thin Air

July 8th, 2011
in econ_news

GTpower3 Econintersect:  The headline does not refer to thermal energy, which is commonly transfered using compressors for heating and cooling interior spaces.  No the process is one that creates electrical (electro-magnetic) energy out of thin air!

To be more correct, the energy is actually there in the air and is not "created."  Scientists at Georgia Tech have found a way to capture electromagnetic energy that is all around us arising from radiation from such sources as radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks, and other sources.

Follow up:

From R&D Mag:

"There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it," says Manos Tentzeris, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering who is leading the research. "We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability."

Tentzeris and his team are using inkjet printers to combine sensors, antennas, and energy-scavenging capabilities on paper or flexible polymers. The resulting self-powered wireless sensors could be used for chemical, biological, heat, and stress sensing for defense and industry; radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging for manufacturing and shipping; and monitoring tasks in many fields including communications and power usage.

In the picture below, Georgia Tech graduate student Rushi Vyas (front) holds a prototype energy-scavenging device, while School of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Manos Tentzeris displays a miniaturized flexible antenna that could be used for broadband energy-scavenging devices. Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek


By scavenging this ambient energy from the air around us, the technique could provide a new way to power networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors, and communications chips.  The antenas and collectors can be made on thin and flexible substartes such as paper, plastic and fabrics.  Humans could even have these devices as part of their clothing to power or provide supplemental power for microdevices they use for communications or for medical devices.

In the picture below Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Manos Tentzeris holds a sensor (left) and an ultra-broadband spiral antenna for wearable energy-scavenging applications. Both were printed on paper using inkjet technology. Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek


Wait until the fashion designers start working with the engineers!

One thought might have occurred to you.  If all this electromagnetic energy is just floating around us, what are the potential effects on our health?  Haven't we been given assurances that the low levels of electromagnetic energy we are exposed to are not exposing us to health risks?

Perhaps we are in the fortuitous condition of having enough energy surrounding us to provide all sorts of power for microdevices but not enough to cause biological effects?

There may be a lot more to this story.

Source: R&D Mag

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