MIT Engineers Show Way of Producing Power Out of Void


If you think electricity can be procured only from sunlight, batteries, wind or water, now Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have shown a remarkable way. They have come up with a device – a thermal resonator that captures small and large temperature variations to produce power. This thermal resonator can absorbs heat on one side and radiates it over to the other. As both sides try to reach equilibrium, the energy can be caught using the process of thermoelectrics.

Temperature changes large and small are happening around us all the time, and scientists have come up with a machine that can convert those fluctuations into electricity, potentially powering sensors and communication devices almost out of the void.The thermal resonator can provide continuous year-long operation for remote sensing system using natural temperature fluctuation like that between day and night, according to the team of MIT engineers.

“We basically invented this concept out of whole cloth,” said Michael Strano, one of the researchers. “We’ve built the first thermal resonator.It’s something that can sit on a desk and generate energy out of what seems like nothing. We are surrounded by temperature fluctuations of all different frequencies all of the time. These are an untapped source of energy,” he added.

For the device, the team created a tailored combination of material.The basic structure is a metal foam coated with the layer of graphene.The foam is infused with a kind of wax called octadecane which changes between solid and liquid phase within a particular range of temperature chosen for given application, states the MIT News website.

In response to a 10-degree-Celsius temperature difference between night and day, the tiny sample of material produced 350 millivolts of potential and 1.3 milliwatts of power — enough to power up simple, small environmental sensors or communications systems.Now that the scientists know something like this can work, they can carry out more research to expand the abilities of the device.