In the future, clean alternatives such as harvesting energy from electromagnetic waves may help ease the world’s energy shortage
For our modern, technologically-advanced society, in which technology has become the solution to a myriad of challenges, energy is critical not only for growth but also, more importantly, survival. The sun is an abundant and practically infinite source of energy, so researchers around the world are racing to create novel approaches to "harvest" clean energy from the sun or transfer that energy to other sources.
This week in the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada report a novel design for electromagnetic energy harvesting based on the "full absorption concept." This involves the use of metamaterials that can be tailored to produce media that neither reflects nor transmits any power—enabling full absorption of incident waves at a specific range of frequencies and polarizations.
"The growing demand for electrical energy around the globe is the main factor driving our research," said Thamer Almoneef, a Ph.D. student. "More than 80 percent of our energy today comes from burning fossil fuels, which is both harmful to our environment and unsustainable as well. In our group, we’re trying to help solve the energy crisis by improving the efficiency of electromagnetic energy-harvesting systems."
Since the inception of collecting and harvesting electromagnetic energy, classical dipole patch antennas have been used. "Now, our technology introduces ‘metasurfaces’ that are much better energy collectors than classical antennas," explained Omar M. Ramahi, professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Metasurfaces are formed by etching the surface of a material with an elegant pattern of periodic shapes. The particular dimensions of these patterns and their proximity to each other can be tuned to provide "near-unity" energy absorption. This energy is then channeled to a load through a conducting path that connects the metasurface to a ground plane.
The key significance of the researchers’ work is that it demonstrates for the first time that it’s possible to collect essentially all of the electromagnetic energy that falls onto a surface.
"Conventional antennas can channel electromagnetic energy to a load—but at much lower energy absorption efficiency levels," said Ramahi. "We can also channel the absorbed energy into a load, rather than having the energy dissipate in the material as was done in previous works."
As you can imagine, this work has a broad range of applications. Among the most important is space solar power, an emerging critical technology that can significantly help to address energy shortages. It converts solar rays into microwaves—using conventional photovoltaic solar panels—and then beams the microwave’s energy to microwave collector farms at designated locations on Earth. Japan is way out in front of rest of the world in this realm, with plans to begin harvesting solar power from space by 2030.
"Our research enables significantly higher energy absorption than classical antennas," Ramahi said. "This results in a significant reduction of the energy harvesting surface footprint. Real estate is a precious commodity for energy absorption—whether it’s wind, hydro, solar or electromagnetic energy."
Other key applications include "wireless power transfer—directly adaptable to power remote devices such as RFID devices and tags or even remote devices in general," Ramahi noted.
The technology can also be extended to the infrared and visible spectra. "We’ve already extended our work into the infrared frequency regime and we hope to report very soon about near-unity absorption in those higher-frequency regimes," added Ramahi.
The article, "Metamaterial electromagnetic energy harvester with near unity efficiency," is authored by Thamer S. Almoneef and Omar M. Ramahi. It will appear in the journal Applied Physics Letters on April 14, 2015 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4916232). After that date it can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/106/15/10.1063/1.4916232
The authors of this paper are affiliated with the University of Waterloo.
ABOUT THE JOURNAL
Applied Physics Letters features concise, rapid reports on significant new findings in applied physics. The journal covers new experimental and theoretical research on applications of physics phenomena related to all branches of science, engineering, and modern technology. See: http://apl.aip.org
Jason Socrates Bardi
Jason Socrates Bardi | newswise
In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer
19.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung
System draws power from daily temperature swings
16.02.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences