Renewables are on the rise, coal is bleeding out, and natural gas is frustratingly cheap. While the energy sector fights it out for the future of the planet, researchers around the world are sneakily coming up with proof-of-concept technologies that may provide our gizmos with new sources of power further down the line.
Enter left stage, MIT’s thermal resonator. This rather magical-sounding device doesn’t need anything other than the ambient environment to generate electricity, which it does so by “harvesting” lingering thermal energy. This isn’t witchcraft, dear readers: this is the bleeding edge of engineering, and although we wouldn’t expect to own one anytime soon, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t extremely clever stuff.
Have you heard of the thermoelectric effect? It’s a neat quirk of physics that allows for the generation of a voltage when a specialized device known as a thermocouple is registering at different temperatures on either side of it. At the same time, if you add a voltage to the thermocouple, it’ll result in a temperature difference across the device.