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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The next ecoproblem: Man made global cooling

Watchers of the BBC's updated Tomorrow's World, which goes by the name of Bang Goes the Theory, may have seen the latest gizmo for energy production the infra-red radiation absorbing antenna.

Researchers in Idaho have printed billions of nanoantennas that collect heat energy generated by the sun and other sources onto plastic sheets. The technology, developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, is the first step toward an energy collector that could be mass-produced on flexible materials. You could think of it as a photovoltaic cell, but in reality it is a collector of ambient infra-red radiation and would for example still produce energy at night from heat radiated by the earth and other not-particularly-warm-but-still-around-300-degrees-K objects.

The technology has a way to go before it becomes usable, not least because it requires high speed rectifiers to turn the multi-trillion Hz oscillations into something more amenable to our electric devices, but how long will it be before the eco-nuts start to complain that all of this absorption of infra-red energy and its use for processes that are not readily reversible (e.g. production of hydrogen by hydrolysis) is depleting the "natural" infrared radiation and thus leading to man-made global cooling?

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