System Draws Power From Daily Temperature Swings

Ultra-high thermal effusivity materials for resonant ambient thermal energy harvesting.

Close-up view shows the thermal resonator (black box) with its radiative cooling fins across the top. The device is filled with a phase-change material that allows it to capture energy from changing temperatures.

November 1, 2018 | Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology,, David L. Chandler, 15 Feb 2018

Thermoelectric devices, which can generate power when one side of the device is a different temperature from the other, have been the subject of much research in recent years. Now, a team at MIT has come up with a novel way to convert temperature fluctuations into electrical power. Instead of requiring two different temperature inputs at the same time, the new system takes advantage of the swings in ambient temperature that occur during the day-night cycle.

The new system, called a thermal resonator, could enable continuous, years-long operation of remote sensing systems, for example, without requiring other power sources or batteries, the researchers say.