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Thread: harnessing background radiation?

  1. #1 harnessing background radiation? 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I am wondering if there is a way of converting all the ambiant EM/radio signals into electricity? We are bombarded by space background radiation (static) on top of all the radio and cell-phone signals.

    Is the static noise and snow on tv between channels(antena) background energy thats just moving around unused? I imagine the energy of one specific frequency might be very faint but the combined flow of a large spectrum might be enough to power a light bulb.

    Are there radio-receiver like devices or experiments that have powered a lightbulb instead of a speaker?


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  3. #2 Re: harnessing background radiation? 
    Forum Junior Lucifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo
    I am wondering if there is a way of converting all the ambiant EM/radio signals into electricity? We are bombarded by space background radiation (static) on top of all the radio and cell-phone signals.

    Is the static noise and snow on tv between channels(antena) background energy thats just moving around unused? I imagine the energy of one specific frequency might be very faint but the combined flow of a large spectrum might be enough to power a light bulb.

    Are there radio-receiver like devices or experiments that have powered a lightbulb instead of a speaker?
    The airwaves around us have a very low density of energy. I think I read once that it was about 2,5 miliwatt per square meter of cross section. That's too low as to be of practical use; you may bear in mind that radiation losses energy by the cube of distance (so being 10 times further means the signal is 1,000 times weaker), so actually there's not much energy around in the air.


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  4. #3  
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    What if every surface in and outside a house was made of a material that transforms the waves into energy ?
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  5. #4 Re: harnessing background radiation? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo
    I am wondering if there is a way of converting all the ambiant EM/radio signals into electricity? We are bombarded by space background radiation (static) on top of all the radio and cell-phone signals.

    Is the static noise and snow on tv between channels(antena) background energy thats just moving around unused? I imagine the energy of one specific frequency might be very faint but the combined flow of a large spectrum might be enough to power a light bulb.

    Are there radio-receiver like devices or experiments that have powered a lightbulb instead of a speaker?
    Perhaps but it would be a bit like squeezing water from a stone; there are more profitable ways of getting water. A four degree Kelvin background radiation is just a little too thin to be of much use compared with the radiation from the sun, geothermal heat, or the gravitational potential of water moving downstream. Furthermore, any process of aquiring energy must consider how much energy is used in the aquisition process and it is all too likely that the balance sheet, in the case of using the cosmic microwave background radiation, would be in the red.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

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  6. #5  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    i think your not totally right. maybe the energy level is quite low... on some parts of our planet the energy is a lot higher. think of placing a collector in an activated uranium mine or uninsulated nuclear waste. this would make a totally different story right... also it would make the use of steam obsolete...
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  7. #6 nope 
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    you would get very very very very little energy over very large area's not worth the effort.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    So to recap, visible light can generate electricity with solar cells, but below that wavelength there's too little energy even by combining most frequencies to be worth it (insufficient to have a self lighting light bulb).
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo
    So to recap, visible light can generate electricity with solar cells, but below that wavelength there's too little energy even by combining most frequencies to be worth it (insufficient to have a self lighting light bulb).
    I disagree.

    I think that Planck's discoverey applies here, that there is a direct relationship between a photon's frequency and its energy. This is:

    E = h nu

    In other words, the higher the frequency of light, the higher its energy. As you lower the wavelength, in the citation above, the energy actually increases.

    The question is not how much energy there is in any given source, but the cost of converting it to a useable form. Ths sun is a far, far more concentrated energy source than background radiation. So is the earth.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes
    Ths sun is a far, far more concentrated energy source than background radiation. So is the earth.
    Yes, in the case of radiation it is a matter of temperature not frequency. Sure the microwave frequency is low energy compared to visible light and radiated heat (infra-red) but we do after all use it to cook food so at high enough intensity it can carry plenty of energy (far more than television and radio waves). So the real problem is that the intensity of background microwave radiation amounts to a temperature of only 4 degrees Kelvin, which is only barely above absolute zero. By comparison the surface of the sun is 5800 degrees Kelvin or more to the point about 300 degrees Kelvin out at the distance of earth from the sun. Even out at the orbit of Pluto the radiation from the sun is still about 35 to 45 degrees Kelvin. So you see the cosmic microwave background radiation is just too insignificant to be of any use.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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