German design student Dennis Siegel has created a device that can charge an AA battery over the course of a day by pulling in ambient electromagnetic radiation from the air.
You cannot see it, but it is all around you and extends infinitely into space: the electromagnetic field.
It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (gravitation, weak interaction and strong interaction are the others) and is key to humans' modern lifestyle.
From huge power plants down to tiny cochlear implants, electrical items emit currents of energy, or electromagnetic radiation, that is not used by the item — energy that is "wasted" by free-flowing into our environment.
Dennis Siegel, a design student at the University of Bremen in Germany, has claimed that he is able to harvest this "free electricity" into usable energy.
According to his website, Siegel has created a harvesting device that pulls in the free electricity surrounding an electronic object, and stores the energy in a simple cell battery.
Dennis Siegel. Electromagnetic radiation harvester: German design student Dennis Siegel claims to have prototyped a working energy harvester that can pull ambient electricity from various sources. IMAGE
"So you can for example gain redundant energy from the power supply of a coffee machine, a cell phone or an overhead wire by holding the harvester directly into the electromagnetic field whose strength is indicated by a LED on the top of the harvester," says Siegel via his site.
Siegel claims that depending on the energy source, his harvester can charge an AA battery over the course of a day.
The harvester has a magnet attached to the back, so in theory, it could be placed on many items around a typical household and pull down energy all day. That said, practical usage is questionable, as Siegel does not quantify how big an energy source has to be to charge that AA battery.
And while interesting, the harvester won't be capable of charging high-use items like cell phones and computers anytime soon. More likely its use on this small scale would be to power small items like hearing aids or home sensors.
Energy harvesting is nothing new. Wikipedia has a large entry detailing the types of energy harvesting that exists, and some of the bigger players in the market.
The largest issue that all energy-harvesting research faces is that despite the largesse of electromagnetic radiation swirling around us, it is very difficult to harness it efficiently and in useful quantity.
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