Harvesting renewable energy from Earth's mid-infrared emissions

S. J. Byrnes, R. Blanchard, F. Capasso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


It is possible to harvest energy from Earth's thermal infrared emission 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 harvester (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 principles, efficiency limits, system design considerations, and possible technological implementations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3927-3932
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 3 2014
Externally publishedYes


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