May 22, 2019 | Updated: 05:48 PM EDT

Scientists Are Looking for New Ways to Control Thermal Radiation

Apr 30, 2019 11:47 AM EDT

thermal radiation
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Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, also known as the Berkeley Lab, are using the Molecular Foundry to explore options in controlling thermal radiation. Planck's Law, named after Max Planck, forms the basis of quantum theory and it states that electromagnetic radiation coming from heated bodies is distributed through a wide range of angles and wavelengths.

Max Plank noted that the energy distribution would depart from the Planck's Law if the size of the object is smaller than the thermal wavelength. With the use of microtechnology and nanotechnology, it is easy to use materials where the law will not hold.

The researchers are determined to depart from the Planck's Law so that they can understand the impact of it on technologies based on nanotechnology and microtechnology and its structured geometrics. Just imagine a thermal storage material that changes electricity to heat and radiates it to a photovoltaic cell to get the used electricity back. The emitter from the storage could be used from nanostructures to enhance and maximize the overall performance.

Research that is similar to this is what the national laboratories in the United States focus on. They ask the questions and they do the needed experiments that the industry may not support right away. Facilities that are intended for scientific use, such as the Molecular Foundry, helps in this type of research. The facility is a DOE or a Department of Energy-funded research entity that is focused on nanoscience that gives its users from around the globe access to instrumentation, expertise and modeling tools.

The researchers used the radiation models found in the Molecular Foundry for this study, and they used it to model the thermal radiation from nanoribbons of silica glass. They used supercomputers in the NERSC or the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, another user facility that is located at Berkeley Lab and is under DOE. The experiments were done by the researchers at the University of California.

"Nobody has explored the relative behavior of Nano-geometries, particularly anisotropic Nano-geometries-nanostructures that are rectangular in cross-section-in this way," said Ravi Prasher, one of the researchers.

The applications for this energy conversion that is still considered at its early stage are important for a lot of renewable applications of energy, like concentrated solar electricity production, water heating, thermal storage, water desalination, and thermochemical reactions.

The research titled "Far-field coherent thermal emission from polaritonic resonance in individual anisotropic nanoribbons" was published in Nature Communications in March 2019.

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