A team of researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia has developed a device to generate electricity from the Earth by turning excess infrared radiation and waste heat through quantum tunneling.
Quantum tunneling is a phenomenon that occurs when particles move through a barrier that should be impossible to move through, according to classical physics. For example, in classical physics, a ball rolling up a hill would require a certain amount of energy to get up the hill and to the other side. However, in quantum physics, the ball could dig through the hill with less energy, in effect tunneling through the barrier.
Our planet absorbs massive amounts of sunlight, which, in turn, leads to a near-constant emission of infrared radiation that holds millions of gigawatts of energy. This infrared heat can be harvested 24 hours a day.
The process involves a specifically designed tunneling device, a bow-tie-shaped nanoantenna that can identify this excess heat as high-frequency electromagnetic waves and then transform these quadrillionth-of-a-second wave signals into electricity.