New infrared-emitting device could allow energy harvesting from waste heat

Watts Up With That?

Researchers create first MEMS metamaterial device that displays infrared patterns that can be quickly changed

THE OPTICAL SOCIETY

WASHINGTON — A new reconfigurable device that emits patterns of thermal infrared light in a fully controllable manner could one day make it possible to collect waste heat at infrared wavelengths and turn it into usable energy.

The new technology could be used to improve thermophotovoltaics, a type of solar cell that uses infrared light, or heat, rather than the visible light absorbed by traditional solar cells. Scientists have been working to create thermophotovoltaics that are practical enough to harvest the heat energy found in hot areas, such as around furnaces and kilns used by the glass industry. They could also be used to turn heat coming from vehicle engines into energy to charge a car battery, for example.

This illustration shows the room temperature MEMS metamaterial, which can achieve reconfigurable infrared…

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