For a couple days I have been just haunted, yes, haunted by an insight by Al Fin and his commenters on the nano antenna array we both covered early this week.

Humanity loses an incredible amount of energy in heat loss in our energy systems. An automobile, truck, electrical generation plant, virtually everything we do produces prodigious amounts of heat that is just lost by radiating off into the atmosphere and beyond. I thought to run a napkin number thing on gasoline engines at 20% efficient work and 80% heat lost to tailpipe and radiator losses and well, it’s a huge number. When one adds the losses across the board, it will be stunning.

I have to give Al Fin a source, credit, backslap, maybe even one of those congratulatory kisses you see Europeans doing. To quote Al’s haunting words “I was mulling over the implications of radiative heat harvesting of the “waste heat” of machines just before I read your comment. Not exactly “Maxwell’s Demon”, but it does have important implications to the entropy equation.”

Entropy is a physics term that is a measure of the unavailability of a system’s energy to do work. Its what is lost, most of the time – it’s the biggest part of a system’s output!

The nano antenna array gathers the previously unavailable heat lost by infrared radiation by resonating and generating an electrical field in the antenna. Virtually all the heat we’re losing is coming off as infrared radiation. Infrared is not in the visible spectrum, making seeing the stunning sheer volume of it a need for specialized instruments, which would illuminate the possible sources and applications as mind-boggling. In theory, anything that warms up emits infrared radiation.

That coupled to Novak’s remark, “Then we thought to start from scratch. We realized we could make the antennas into their own energy harvesters,” opens another door. Should this development come to efficiencies in the 70 to 80% range as suggested, most systems that consume fuels would gain work output by being substituted by combustors and nano antennas.

Just for the sake of discussion, I suspect that a nano antenna array in a cold ambient state exposed to a heat source would start to function. Sink one in deep cold seawater and flow warm surface seawater over it and you would have a huge solar collector. The ideas to come for utilizing this development are countless.

I hope I’ve made the case that this innovation may be one of history’s major events. Nano antennas may not be as significant from a technological breakthrough as breakeven fusion will be, but with application prospects that cover all four sources of the energy available to humanity its more important than we realize.

So my nomination for the important prizes of humanity are Steven Novak, from the Idaho National Laboratory and Patrick Pinhero from the University of Missouri. I wish to congratulate Al Fin and his commentators for their insight. Energy is abundant, and these good people have taken us a long way to low cost usability.


1 Comment so far

  1. Sara on June 11, 2008 8:48 AM

    At Idaho National Laboratory we have produced a short video on the nanoantenna technology. If you are interested, you check it out at

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