PerspectiveApplied Physics

Thermal light tunnels its way into electricity

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  20 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6484, pp. 1301-1302
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba8976

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Summary

In 1824, a 28-year-old French engineer named Sadi Carnot published a now-celebrated treatise that sought to understand how efficiently heat could be converted to work (1). While Carnot laid the foundations for our modern understanding of thermodynamics, he also implicitly identified a pathway for energy recovery and harvesting that may prove to be an essential component of the 21st-century response to climate change. Carnot's eponymous cycle revealed that in any energy conversion process, some heat will always be rejected to a cold reservoir—typically the ambient environment. In the United States alone, 61% of the energy we consume is rejected in this manner as “wasted” heat (2). However, this waste heat need not actually be lost. It can be recovered, in principle, by driving another energy conversion device to generate electricity. On page 1341 of this issue, Davids et al. propose and implement a way to directly convert lower-temperature heat into electricity (3).

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science