A team of researchers at the University of Arkansas has developed a circuit that is able to capture the thermal motion of graphene and convert it into an electrical current. The team hopes this could lead to graphene being used as a limitless source of clean energy.
“An energy-harvesting circuit based on graphene could be incorporated into a chip to provide clean, limitless, low-voltage power for small devices or sensors,” said Paul Thibado, professor of physics and lead researcher in the discovery.
U of A physicists developed a theory in 2017 that a single-layer graphene sheet can be rippled and buckled in such a way that could be useful for harvesting energy. Their new published findings, dubbed “Fluctuation-induced current from freestanding graphene” is seen as proving out their theory.
The discovery contradicts long-standing research on the topic, including physicist Richard Feynman’s famous assertion that thermal motion of atoms does not generate energy. The U of A research team’s discovery that thermal motion of graphene at room temperature does indeed create an AC current in a circuit calls what we previously knew into question.
“We also found that the on-off, switch-like behavior of the diodes actually amplifies the power delivered, rather than reducing it, as previously thought,” Thibado said. “The rate of change in resistance provided by the diodes adds an extra factor to the power.”