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Engineers researching at Duke University, North Carolina, have just unveiled a new invention that allows them to harvest background electromagnetic radiation and convert it into electricity, and the amazing thing is that it works at the same efficiency as modern solar panels.
The researchers explain that by using metamaterials, “engineered structures that can capture various forms of wave energy and tune them for useful applications,” they have been able to convert energy that is normally lost to the environment in the form of wasted waves, from sources such as satellite transmissions, sound waves, and Wi-Fi.
A report on the technology claims that it is capable of converting microwaves into a direct current sufficient enough to charge a mobile phone. The device can produce a maximum of 7.3V, far more than the 5V that USB phone chargers work on.
Allen Hawkes, one of the research team members, said that they “were aiming for the highest energy efficiency we could achieve. We had been getting energy efficiency around 6 to 10 percent, but with this design we were able to dramatically improve energy conversion to 37 percent, which is comparable to what is achieved in solar cells.”
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Alexander Katko, another member of the team, added that “it’s possible to use this design for a lot of different frequencies and types of energy, including vibration and sound energy harvesting.
Until now, a lot of work with metamaterials has been theoretical. We are showing that with a little work, these materials can be useful for consumer applications.”
They even suggested that their invention could convert signals emitted from phone towers or satellites into usable electricity, allowing devices to be charged wirelessly, or potentially provide power to remote areas without power cables, such as in the desert or up mountains.
The device, showing the simple blocks from which it is created. Adding more blocks would increase the power generated.
Steven Cummer, the lead investigator, added that “the beauty of the design is that the basic building blocks are self-contained and additive. One can simply assemble more blocks to increase the scavenged power.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com