Physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) are developing a device described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that would harvest energy from Earth’s infrared emissions into outer space. The power is modest, but tangible. Steven J. Byrnes, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS, points out, “The device could be coupled with a solar cell, for example, to obtain extra power at night without extra installation costs.”
Heated by the sun, our planet is very warm compared to the frigid depths of space. Thanks to recent technological advances such as plasmonics and nanofabrication, and new materials like graphene, the researchers say this heat imbalance could soon be transformed into direct current (DC) power, taking advantage of an untapped, virtually limitless energy source.