A new discovery of an artificial material could soon provide electricity even in dark conditions. Physicists have discovered that this new metamaterial could possibly gather heat and turn it into electric energy.
The Australian National University/ARC Center of Excellence CUDOS researchers, along with the University of California Berkeley, discovered a new meta material in nanotechnology that unusually lights up when exposed to heat.
"Our metamaterial overcomes several obstacles and could help to unlock the potential of thermophotovoltaic cells," said Sergey Kruk of Australian National University Research School of Physics and Engineering.
The newly found metamaterial is made out of nanoscopic forms of magnesium fluoride (MgF2) and gold and radiates heat across certain directions.
The metamaterial, complemented by thermophotovoltaic cells, is an ideal emitter since its geometry can be adjusted to produce radiation in a particular spectral range.
"The size of an individual building block of the metamaterial is so small that we could fit more than 12,000 of them on the cross-section of a human hair," said Kruk.
The metamaterial's light dispersion is way unique from other materials because of its peculiar physical property called magnetic hyperbolic dispersion, which is the interaction of light and reproduction of electromagnetic radiation in various directions. Such materials as crystals and glass have dispersion that is simple, either ellipsoidal or circular.
The metamaterial can be more developed along with thermophotovoltaic cells if the receiver and emitter have a nano gap in between them, which can radiate heat that is 10 times more than traditional materials.
The discovery of the metamaterial could pave the way for developing solar cells into a thermophotovoltaic cell as it converts heat from radiation into electricity.
"Thermophotovoltaic cells have the potential to be much more efficient than solar cells," further from Kruk.
Early research showed that thermophotovoltaic cells are more efficacious than solar cells. Thermophotovoltaic cells work by converting heat through infrared radiation and turning it into electricity even in dark surroundings.
The heat released by steaming engines could also be used to produce on-demand power since it can be combined with burners.
The researchers teamed up with the University of California Berkeley to fabricate the metamaterial.
The findings are published in Nature Communications.