Energy of the future or pipe dream? Radiant energy could hold the key to man’s resource problems. It could also prove a fruitless exercise.
What is radiant energy?
Radiant energy is an umbrella term for all the energy found in electromagnetic waves, although it is sometimes used to describe the waves themselves. Electromagnetic can be viewed as a stream of photons which are invisible to the naked eye which flow around the atmosphere without anyone really noticing. Examples include radio waves, light waves and x-rays.
How radiant energy works
The first radiant energy system was developed in the 1930s by scientist Nikola Telsa. It involved using an antenna, stuck up in the air, to create a potential difference in electrical current. The current could then be mined by fitting a device to capture it (such as a capacitor). The electric potential, which allows an electric current to form, is created because there is a difference between the electrical energy in the antenna (plus) and the electrical energy on the ground (minus). In fact, lightening conductors on modern buildings do something similar, although the energy in these is not generally stored but rather conducted to earth to make them safe. Modern devices use this same technology, albeit in a more efficient way. However, radiant energy cannot really be produced on industrial scales.
Advantages of radiant energy
Radiant energy systems in their most basic form are relatively cheap to set up, needing just an antenna, some wires and basic capacitors. At the same time, it is easy to use radiant energy on a small scale. Such systems already exist in water heating devices which make direct use the Sun’s rays and even photographic development equipment.
Disadvantages of radiant energy
Radiant energy is not useful in terms of producing large amounts of energy. Its main uses are in communications and photography. Although some attempts have been made to use it to generate electricity for household use, particularly in eco projects, no-one has successfully built radiant energy machines which can regularly produce enough energy for families to live. Even many researchers are sceptical about the potential for radiant energy to be used on a large scale.
Future of radiant energy
Certainly, radiant energy is the subject of a great deal of research at present with many arguing that it’s potential has so far not been realised.
Radiant energy offers the most promising research area for man’s energy needs. However, it also may well prove to be a damp squib, and those interested in investing must tread carefully to ensure that it does not become a black hole for cash too.
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