Invention Harvests Electricity from Background Radiation

Engineers at Duke University have designed a gadget that captures background radiation and converts it to useable electricity. Operating on the same principle as solar panels that capture light energy, the “metamaterial cells” can harvest microwaves with an efficiency of 36.8 percent — the same efficiency as modern solar cells.

The Daily Mail reports:

The development raises exciting possibilities such as recharging a phone wirelessly and providing power to remote locations that can’t access conventional electricity.

And the researchers say that their inexpensive invention is remarkably versatile. It could be used to capture ‘lost’ energy from a range of sources such as satellite transmissions, sound signals or Wi-Fi.

The researchers used a series of five fiberglass and copper energy conductors wired together on a circuit board to convert microwaves into 7.3V of electrical energy. A USB charger provides about 5V of power. That, on its own, is not much power, but the concept can be scaled larger by simply adding more building blocks.

“Our work demonstrates a simple and inexpensive approach to electromagnetic power harvesting,” said research lead Steven Cummer. “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.”

Photo: This metamaterial array is made up of five fiberglass and copper conductors wired together on a circuit board. (Duke University)

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