Paradigms are changing folks!

The research conducted by the U of A scientists has been rather controversial. The idea that freestanding graphene has potential energy-harvesting capabilities refutes a well-known assertation by physicist Richard Feynman that the thermal motion of atoms, known as Brownian motion, cannot do work.

However, the U of A researchers found that at room temperature, the thermal motion of graphene does induce an alternating current in a circuit – something previously thought impossible. In addition, the researchers found that their design increased the amount of power delivered. They stated that they found that the diodes’ switch-like behavior actually amplified the power being delivered instead of reducing it. (Related: Energy from an unlikely source: A combination of microbes and graphene could make inexpensive and eco-friendly energy.)

“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,” said Thibado. “The rate of change in resistance provided by the diodes adds an extra factor to the power.”

To prove that the diodes increased the circuit’s power, the scientists on the project used a relatively new field of physics called stochastic thermodynamics. This field uses a family of stochastic or random variables to better understand the non-equilibrium dynamics present in many microscopic systems.

In the case of the graphene, the researchers say that it shares a symbiotic relationship with the circuit. While the thermal environment performs work on the load resistor, the circuit and the graphene at the same temperature and heat are not flowing between the two. This is an important discovery as a temperature difference between the two would violate the second law of thermodynamics.