Harvesting renewable energy from Earth’s mid-infrared emissions

Posted: January 11, 2017 by tchannon in Energy, humour, radiative theory, Thermodynamics

Tim writes,

Enjoy. When I first came across this paper there was a lot of chuckling, can’t be serious, surely?

Well, I can understand someone wanting to quantify the effect, show the laws, make it a warning for any fools who need saving from themselves, ain’t engineers. I’m afraid this paper goes too far off the deep end, hints at meant seriously. Your opinion might differ.

Published PNAS

Harvesting renewable energy from Earth’s mid-infrared emissions
Steven J. Byrnes, Romain Blanchard, and Federico Capasso, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
Contributed by Federico Capasso, February 3, 2014 (sent for review November 1, 2013)

It is possible to harvest energy from Earth’s thermal infrared emis-
sion into outer space. We calculate the thermodynamic limit for
the amount of power available, and as a case study, we plot how
this limit varies daily and seasonally in a location in Oklahoma.We
discuss two possible ways to make such an emissive energy har-
vester (EEH): A thermal EEH (analogous to solar thermal power
generation) and an optoelectronic EEH (analogous to photovoltaic
power generation). For the latter, we propose using an infrared-
frequency rectifying antenna, and we discuss its operating princi-
ples, efficiency limits, system design considerations, and possible
technological implementations.

Actual merit? Works at night.

On a good day with a following wind I somewhat doubt if one Watt sq metre is feasible. So lets see, boil my kettle, going to need

more than 3 sq kilometres, given losses, say at least 4.

The last paragraph starts

In conclusion, the energy flow from Earth to outer space
provides a hitherto neglected opportunity to generate a poten-
tially enormous amount of renewable energy.

I’ll leave any shredding or plaudits to readers.

Post by Tim.

  1. FTOP says:

    Why not harness ice cubes to boil water? With enough of them you could harness their LWIR to serve your piping hot coffee.

    Physics left the building when the climastrologists started believing the cold sky warmed the earth more than the sun.

    Science is now a Kafka novel.

  2. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Gee, is it the first of April at PNAS all ready?

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    We could call it the Gulliver Effect. After the original idea of extracting energy from cucumbers.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Look at all that outgoing heat especially near the equator 😉

    What about ground source heat pumps?

    Gas heating is cheaper.

  5. I just thought, “Well, there goes Tallbloke again.”

  6. Never thought that Harvard had any status in engineering. This reinforces that they are not much better than a high school. A paper from MIT, ETH or NUS may have sufficient status for an engineer to read it.

  7. AlecM says:

    The authors are fools. This is because such IR energy, as detected by a radiometer, is a potential energy flux to a perfect sink at Absolute Zero; only net flux is real.

    Background: Planck, Bose and Einstein’s radiant theory only applies to a vacuum. There has never been any proof to the contrary except the meter output of a radiometer, and any professional will confirm such data are an artificial construct.

    Sorry Tallbloke,you were taught incorrect Physics: it appeared in works by Simpson `(1923) and Goody (1964), who were also deceived because they did not know real GHG IR physics!

    To claim otherwise is to breach the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Hansen admitted this in 2000 to an AIP interviewer. This is why GISS’ ‘negative convection’ was replaced (by Singo’s late husband) with equally imaginary ‘back radiation’ in the MO 3-D models, much more difficult to dismiss. That fake physics, which assumes incorrect cloud aerosol optics, is being quietly ejected by the real MO scientists now that Slingo has retired. It also gives fake ‘positive feedback’.

    QED: the evidence is the improved precision of recent MO predicted weather data. Hadley’s and Houghton’s reputation is now being quietly buried so as not to alarm the taxpayers and admit the IPCC fraud.

    We’ll soon see how the state media spin this story, going for broke and World Totalitarian Marxist Government, or allow Trump to win – too close to call. Watch May very carefully and check if the Swansea Lagoon is really a busted flush organised by ‘bent’ Hendry.

  8. tchannon says:

    Alec, Tim put this up, not Tallbloke.

    In the context of extracting energy from small temperature differences we have OTEC http://www.makai.com/ocean-thermal-energy-conversion/ but these are low impedance thermal carriers, water.

  9. AlecM says:

    Hi tchannon: I worked on OTEC 40 years ago in Hawaii. There is a great thermodynamic difference between Delta (sensible heat) and net IR flux between two emitters. This is because the former is real, based on difference of mean molecule velocity. The latter is a function of emissivity difference, a function of emitter composition difference at the same temperature.

    This aspect of energy transfer has been completely missed by all atmospheric scientists who have failed to get the basic physics’ principles. Planck knew perfectly well as can be proved by reading his Maxwell’s Equations explanation with a finite elementary volume, hence stored energy.

    Bose and Einstein took Planck’s idea and translated it into six dimensional space – same argument but which does not apply to a GHG in contact with a surface for which there is zero sampling volume, zero stored energy.

    The emission surface to Space for each IR band is set by its self-absorption kinetics, so is zero for various windows, a few km for most partially-self-absorbed (at 1 Bar) bands and ~20 km for CO2. The atmosphere self-controls to make CO2 CS almost exactly zero as [H2O] varies in response to changed [CO2]. This is why Hansen and the IPCC are being marginalised. Sagan and Pollack, and Hansen made bad mistakes in the aerosol optical physics of clouds which crated imaginary negative 2nd cloud albedo effect.

    This pseudoscience will live for 2 more years before being dropped, about the same time as it took for Phlogiston to disappear.

  10. tchannon says:

    You worked on OTEC? Blimey, I had no idea, if I had I’d have added a note about thermal impedance, perhaps one way of looking at things. (maybe I now get shot)

    Has much turned up about the Cuban experiment? A little bit has been written, all I know.

    If Trump avoids assassination, I think there are so many angry people around there will be attempts. That’s before he has actually done anything. Going to be interesting anyway.

    Over here the stupidity is alive and well, ingrained.

  11. Brett Keane says:

    @AlecM says:
    January 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm: Thanks Alec. Two questions: Firstly, is this Roy Spencer’s mistake as he points his pyrometer to the sky? And secondly: Is this the reason for the negative 4th power relationship of Temp to radiative flux?

  12. oldbrew says:

    ‘Harvesting renewable energy from Earth’s mid-infrared emissions’

    Ideas like that should be a hit in California…

    A Drought of Sanity in California

    The ink was hardly dry on the Secretarial Order from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell blaming California’s drought on global warming than rain and snow swept across the state. San Francisco International Airport was forced to cancel flights and there were blizzard warnings for Lake Tahoe.

    “Drought is becoming a regular occurrence,” Executive Order B-37-16 stated … “California is currently in the grips of an extreme drought with record low precipitation,” it gloomily began. Then the Sacramento River flooded, the downtown rainfall record was broken and copies of the report came in handy as makeshift umbrellas by scurrying staffers.

    So there was nothing left to do but blame Global Warming.


  13. tom0mason says:

    To go with the above link is the Supporting Information file

    Many years ago, when the bird frying Ivanpah Valley project had just started up, it’s performance was mooted on a blog, I cracked a joke about them harvesting DWIR ‘Back Radiation’ instead for 24/7 power generation. Oh how we laughed…

    …Oh dear, someone took me seriously.

  14. tom0mason says:

    I note that Wikipedia entry HERE on Optical rectenna take some information from this same paper.
    Surely that means it must be real good science.


    P.S. Doesn’t rectenna sound just so rude? 😉

  15. Well said AlecM no so-called climate scientist understands thermodynamics, heat heat transfer, mass transfer or fluid dynamics. (Dr) Gavin Schmidt (now head of GISS) admitted on a blog that he did not know about the Schmidt number (Sc). He is a fool paid way too much. Hopefully, he will be dismissed by the new US administration.

  16. linneamogren says:

    The biggest failure has been their lack or intentionally lack of knowledge regarding thermodynamics. The AGW clans insist the 2nd Law does not reflect an open system ( which is true in regards to greenhouse hypothesis ) but being we are a dynamic equilibrium within an open system there’s still no net chance change of energy! That’s a bit of an issue they ignore.

  17. linneamogren says:

    Chance = change ( darn auto correct )

  18. Curious George says:

    This is a 2014 peer-reviewed article published in a prestigious PNAS. Deniers, don’t just stare, publish and perish.

  19. AlecM says:

    @Brett Kean: yup – Spencer’s mistake is to fail to understand how IR pyrometers work. As for the net S-B equation, Planck knew for a fact that it is based on the vector sum at a plane in space of Maxwell’s Equations’ data. Also he makes it perfectly plain that his theory assumes a pure vacuum so a net accumulation of EM energy.

    With GHGs, there is no vacuum hence no spatially stored energy. The theory is coming along nicely now. It leads to an all-encompassing thermodynamic analysis of the planetary control system which Brookhaven people and others have dabbled for 30 years or more. My work is just a little bit further down the line and is based on B-E statistics.

    A few others are on the same track around the World. The new LIA proves we are right and the establishment, including so-called great physicists, is badly wrong.

  20. hunter says:

    My bet is that this would be more tenuous than wind energy by orders of magnitude. “Free energy” is probably as big a delusion as perpetual motion.

  21. hunter says:

    I ran into a guy something close to 20 years ago who was going to use the deep ocean heat sink to cool a low boiling point liquid that would be boiled at tropical temps typical in the tropics. The problem was it was so costly to pump the fluid deep enough to cool (or was it to pump deep cold water up?) that the system would net basically squat.
    A brief glance at this pnas paper shows it is likely a fun paper offering to do about the same thing: nothing much.

  22. hunter says:

    Wow, these guys are still hanging in there! I found a link to their upgraded home page. http://www.otecnews.org/what-is-otec/

  23. hunter says:

    Sorry I didn’t see the prior mentions of OTEC. I wasn’t aware it has been around so long. I was in touch, if I recall, with a physicist who was deeply involved with the foundation. I see the foundation has slicked up its website but the whole thing is nearly as vague as cold fusion promotion. Except that there is allegedly a relatively small test plant in Hawaii. But I see OTEC, this infrared capture, and wind power as points on a spectrum that manifests how some people will spend lots of other people’s money chasing marginal power sources.

  24. oldbrew says:

    The elephant in the room is still cheap natural gas from fracking.

  25. hunter says:

    re: natural gas.
    But the leadership is under the sway of anti-tech misanthropes who promote rent seeking nonsense dressed up as solutions. Gas and nukes. No more ruined hilltops, No more flooded valleys. reduce the number of feeder transmission lines cutting across the landscape. And please stop pretending that marine based wind farms are anything more than incredibly expensive (even by wind standards) and are a storm away from uselessness.

  26. oldbrew says:

    Someone reckons they can ‘harness the power of the Earth’s atmosphere’…

    BAE Systems is using energy in the atmosphere to create on-demand deflector shields and spy lenses.
    By Mary-Ann Russon
    January 18, 2017

    Aerospace and defence firm BAE Systems has come up with a new idea for protecting the military from laser directed-energy weapons – harness the power of the Earth’s atmosphere to produce instant, on-demand deflector shields in mid-air.

    The Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept works by creating a volume of the atmosphere that causes electromagnetic energy to have its path changed in order to redirect pulses from laser directed-energy weapons.


    Don’t get too excited though…

    LDAL sounds pretty amazing, but it will take another 50 years before the technology will be ready for the military to deploy as a significant amount of research and development is still required. However, BAE Systems has made a start and currently had 10 patents pending for the technology.

  27. Zeke says:

    “we propose using an infrared-
    frequency rectifying antenna”

    That I would like to see.

    Et voila:

    Well at least nano antennas are interesting. Thanks Tim.

    I used to read a lot of Philip S Callahan on antenna forms in the insect world and that reminded me of some photoelectric wasps that were discovered a few years ago.

    Nature uses extensive em antenna tech so maybe we are merely catching up. It might make some very dapper yellow and black hats to catch that outgoing IR in the icy weather, and maybe some thermal full body underwear technology for the record breaking lows world wide. As soon as the difficulties of 10 million antennas in close proximity are worked out. (: