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Old 3rd October 2020, 01:05 AM   #1
Solitaire
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Limitless Power From Graphene And Brownian motion

Quote:
Physicists Build Circuit That Generates Clean, Limitless Power From Graphene

The idea of harvesting energy from graphene is controversial because it
refutes physicist Richard Feynman’s well-known assertion that the thermal
motion of atoms, known as Brownian motion, cannot do work. Thibado’s
team found that at room temperature the thermal motion of graphene
does in fact induce an alternating current (AC) in a circuit,
an achievement thought to be impossible.

In the 1950s, physicist Léon Brillouin published a landmark paper refuting
the idea that adding a single diode, a one-way electrical gate, to a circuit
is the solution to harvesting energy from Brownian motion. Knowing this,
Thibado’s group built their circuit with two diodes for converting AC into
a direct current (DC). With the diodes in opposition allowing the current
to flow both ways, they provide separate paths through the circuit,
producing a pulsing DC current that performs work on a load resistor.

Additionally, they discovered that their design increased the amount
of power delivered. “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.”

They haven't actually got to step two: harvesting this energy.
I especially like the idea that if no current were flowing the resistor
would cool down.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 01:29 AM   #2
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Love to have more research on this, especially replication.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 07:32 AM   #3
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Emmy Noether is turning in her grave.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 09:40 AM   #4
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Second Law of Thermodynamics
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Old 3rd October 2020, 09:41 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by hecd2 View Post
Emmy Noether is turning in her grave.
Could you generate power from that?
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Old 3rd October 2020, 11:18 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Second Law of Thermodynamics
Fascinating. Tell me more. According to the second law, the motion of the molecules would slow as more of their energy was transformed into work. After a while the molecules would stop moving, and no more work could be extracted from them.

But my understanding is that Brownian motion is a perpetual motion arising from the nature of the molecule's existence as such. As long as they continue to exist, they will continue in their Brownian motion.

So I think simply saying "Second Law of Thermodynamics" cannot be a rebuttal to the claim being made. A detailed understanding of molecular physics (and possibly quantum physics) is necessary to figure out what is going on here and what laws apply.

The key is probably in Feynman's reasoning for why Brownian motion can't do work. I doubt he simply appealed to the Second Law. If he had, there'd be no need to cite his opinion. You could just cite the Second Law.

What are the details of Feynman's argument for why this shouldn't be possible?
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Old 3rd October 2020, 11:30 AM   #7
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I think I'll have a nice hot cup of tea.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 11:39 AM   #8
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I read that story. The "limitless" part is rather misleading.

What they mean is that they have found a battery that never discharges. It's "fueled" by heat. So, they are basically saying that they've found a way that could some day lead to small, electrically powered devices where the battery doesn't need to be changed.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 12:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
What they mean is that they have found a battery that never discharges. It's "fueled" by heat. So, they are basically saying that they've found a way that could some day lead to small, electrically powered devices where the battery doesn't need to be changed.
Where did you find them saying this? I didn't see it in the linked webpage, but maybe I missed it. What they write there seems very unclear to me. Why would the load resistor cool down without the Brownian current, for example? And I didn't see a link to a pre-print or some other proper write-up. (Plus it sounds very much like nonsense, from the `one diode can't work, but two can!' bit, though that's not a rigorous argument.)

The problem is that you can't fuel something by heat, you need a temperature *difference*. And they seem to say it's a key fact that their whole set-up is at the same temperature.

Then there would be a 2nd law violation. If everything starts at the same temperature and overall heat is extracted (from the environment the graphene is in, presumably), and nothing otherwise changes except that electrical energy is stored in the capacitor, then you've got a decrease in entropy (where heat has been extracted from) and no corresponding increase.

Theprestige: perhaps this also answers your question?
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Old 3rd October 2020, 12:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
If everything starts at the same temperature and overall heat is extracted...
Everybody is missing the real reason this is such a big breakthrough - free cooling! This the ultimate answer to Global Warming - not only will running the A/C produce electricity instead of consuming it, with Free CoolingTM we can lower the Earth's temperature!

Quote:
Then there would be a 2nd law violation.
Pffft, scientists - what do they know? Laws are made to be broken!
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Old 3rd October 2020, 01:21 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
Where did you find them saying this? I didn't see it in the linked webpage, but maybe I missed it. What they write there seems very unclear to me. Why would the load resistor cool down without the Brownian current, for example? And I didn't see a link to a pre-print or some other proper write-up. (Plus it sounds very much like nonsense, from the `one diode can't work, but two can!' bit, though that's not a rigorous argument.)

The problem is that you can't fuel something by heat, you need a temperature *difference*. And they seem to say it's a key fact that their whole set-up is at the same temperature.

Then there would be a 2nd law violation. If everything starts at the same temperature and overall heat is extracted (from the environment the graphene is in, presumably), and nothing otherwise changes except that electrical energy is stored in the capacitor, then you've got a decrease in entropy (where heat has been extracted from) and no corresponding increase.

Theprestige: perhaps this also answers your question?
The second paragraph of the linked article is

Quote:
“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.
Some of what they say doesn't make sense to me. Some of that is based on my limited understanding of physics. I passed all the tests on the second law of thermodynamics in my basic physics classes, but then shuffled all of it out of my memory except the parts about information being created and no perpetual motion.

Other parts just don't make sense to me, like resistors cooling down.

So, I won't pretend to explain it, but the credentials of the authors seem pretty legit, and it did get published in a real journal and the articles are in places that have some science street cred, so it looks like they might be onto something cool. They at least think they have gotten past 2nd law violations and Maxwell's demon, and I am not in a position to say otherwise, but I'm also not in a position to say that they aren't passing off flim flam either.

What caught my eye with the article was the "limitless power" headline, and thought they were talking about some sort of (effectively) perpetual motion, so I read it to see how the headline writers had been hoodwinked. Anyway, I saw that they didn't mean actually limitless power in the sense of free energy to fuel all of our electrical needs, but rather a novel gizmo that might provide power to a small device from a battery that never needs to be replaced.

Will it really work? Does it violate any laws of physics? More educated minds than mine will have to answer that question.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 01:59 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Fascinating. Tell me more. According to the second law, the motion of the molecules would slow as more of their energy was transformed into work. After a while the molecules would stop moving, and no more work could be extracted from them.
No, that's the first law, conservation of energy.

Quote:
But my understanding is that Brownian motion is a perpetual motion arising from the nature of the molecule's existence as such. As long as they continue to exist, they will continue in their Brownian motion.
Brownian motion is thermal energy, and is dependent on temperature, and hence entropy. To extract energy from Brownian motion, you have to decrease the entropy of the object you are extracting it from. If you don't simultaneously increase the entropy of another system by at least as much, then you have indeed violated the 2nd law. That requires this second object to have a lower temperature than the first. If that's the case, though, all you've done is invent a new form of heat engine. Which is cool, but not likely very useful.

Quote:
So I think simply saying "Second Law of Thermodynamics" cannot be a rebuttal to the claim being made.
Depends on details of the claim which seem unspecified. It is a rebutal of this being anything more than another form of heat engine.

Quote:
A detailed understanding of molecular physics (and possibly quantum physics) is necessary to figure out what is going on here and what laws apply.
The beauty and power of thermodynamics is that no, actually, you don't need any of those details to put some hard constraints on what's possible regardless of the details.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 03:44 PM   #13
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I'd like to get a bet down on this not actually being correct. I missed my chance several years ago with the allegedly faster than light neutrinos, and this looks like a similar opportunity.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:06 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
No, that's the first law, conservation of energy.



Brownian motion is thermal energy, and is dependent on temperature, and hence entropy. To extract energy from Brownian motion, you have to decrease the entropy of the object you are extracting it from. If you don't simultaneously increase the entropy of another system by at least as much, then you have indeed violated the 2nd law. That requires this second object to have a lower temperature than the first. If that's the case, though, all you've done is invent a new form of heat engine. Which is cool, but not likely very useful.



Depends on details of the claim which seem unspecified. It is a rebutal of this being anything more than another form of heat engine.



The beauty and power of thermodynamics is that no, actually, you don't need any of those details to put some hard constraints on what's possible regardless of the details.
Awesome, thanks for the correction.

So this boils down to "limitless power from whatever limitless source of heat you're using to provoke the motion you're using to do the work"?

That sounds boring.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:08 PM   #15
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This sounds like another 'cold fusion' hoax.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:12 PM   #16
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Ah - I'd missed that the top right corner of the page linked to in the first post contains a link to the article publised in Physical Review E ( PHYSICAL REVIEW E 102, 042101 (2020) ). That's not generally available for free as far as I can tell, but there seems to be an earlier version on arXiv at https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.09947.

PRE is a serious journal, but that doesn't mean that everything published in it is correct! I had a quick look through the actual paper, and I find it very hard to figure out what they are claiming. It does seem from this and random other references on the internet that they claim to be extracting electrical power from a thermal bath without a temperature difference - which would violate the 2nd law.

I don't understand what this bit (from their conclusions) means, for example: "Our model provides a rigorous demonstration that continuous thermal power can be supplied by a Brownian particle at a single temperature while in thermodynamic equilibrium, provided the same amount of power is continuously dissipated in a resistor. Here coupling to the circuit allows electrical work to be carried out on the load resistor without violating the second law of thermodynamics."

If the restriction (same amount - their emphasis) is that the resistor has to be thermally dissipating this power and (which is mentioned elsewhere) there is no temperature difference, then I guess there is no 2nd law violation, but also nothing potentially useful is happening (you are moving heat from somewhere to somewhere else at the same temperature, and can't continue to use this to generate a temperature difference).

So it all makes no sense to me in a quite annoying way: they don't clearly state what the actual claim is. It reads as though they are claiming free energy, but trying not to say it too obviously, because otherwise the referees would have rejected the paper. Rather odd.

...

Ok, I've found an older article, where Thibado says "Thibado predicts that his generators could transform our environment, allowing any object to send, receive, process, and store information, powered only by room temperature heat. This would have significant implications for the effort to connect physical objects to the digital world, known as the Internet of Things. This self-charging, microscopic power source could make everyday objects into smart devices, as well as powering more sophisticated biomedical devices such as pace-makers, hearing aids, and wearable sensors." (see https://researchfrontiers.uark.edu/good-vibrations/)

Here it's much clearer: you can't extract electrical energy from a constant temperature environment - that's a clear violation of the 2nd law. So either he is explaining something else (whatever that is) very badly there, or proposing a free energy device, and there's an error somewhere.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:16 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
So this boils down to "limitless power from whatever limitless source of heat you're using to provoke the motion you're using to do the work"?
That's the charitable interpretation. But that only makes sense if there is a temperature difference, which there doesn't seem to be in the article.

It reads like a free energy claim, supported by some pretty complicated maths. In which case there is of course either a mistake in the maths (beyond me to find it), or conceivably in the interpretation. (E.g., perhaps the maths could all be correct but only apply in the case that the resistor is thermally dissipating power so that in effect nothing is happening but heat moving between two places at the same temperature. That would still seem odd to me, and maybe it's ruled out by some more advanced application of the 2nd law.)
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:18 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
This sounds like another 'cold fusion' hoax.
Cold fusion, while not plausible, was much *more* plausible, because it didn't obviously violate any fundamental laws!
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Old 3rd October 2020, 04:29 PM   #19
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If the device actually works in practice, it might be because it's harvesting ambient electromagnetic waves that keep the graphene in motion (warm). Such as, perhaps, radio transmissions. Maybe it's really a very low power, very inefficient photovoltaic cell for converting IHeartRadio back into useful power.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 05:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
If the device actually works in practice, it might be because it's harvesting ambient electromagnetic waves that keep the graphene in motion (warm). Such as, perhaps, radio transmissions. Maybe it's really a very low power, very inefficient photovoltaic cell for converting IHeartRadio back into useful power.
I grew up half a mile from a 1KW AM radio tower. You could make a "radio" by just connecting a geranium diode to an earphone - no antenna or anything (apart from the earphone wire). You would also always hear the station faintly in the background when using a landline phone.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 05:05 PM   #21
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I guess that's true, but it's not at all the claimed mechanism in the paper!
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Old 3rd October 2020, 05:15 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Modified View Post
I grew up half a mile from a 1KW AM radio tower. You could make a "radio" by just connecting a geranium diode to an earphone - no antenna or anything (apart from the earphone wire). You would also always hear the station faintly in the background when using a landline phone.
As you say, most crystal radios work like this.And one can harvest very small amounts of energy for other purposes this way.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 05:20 PM   #23
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But the energy still has to come from somewhere. The gennies that power the radio transmitter run out of juice, your radio crystal is just a crystal.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 05:21 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
I think I'll have a nice hot cup of tea.
Just keep out of the way of that rampaging mob of respectable physicists...
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Old 3rd October 2020, 07:23 PM   #25
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Wowie Zowie. Free, limitless energy.

Doesn't even claim to produce byproducts like Brilliant Power (Hydrinos) and Cold Fusion (Binding energy increase via transmutation).

Look for them to "take in" a few investors to scale up. Worked big time for Brilliant.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 07:30 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
But the energy still has to come from somewhere. The gennies that power the radio transmitter run out of juice, your radio crystal is just a crystal.
I used to listen to Radio Moscow on a crystal radio as a kid in Mass. it was stronger with a shorter antenna than local AM stations. Posner's Mailbag was always quite entertaining. I didn't find the propaganda particularly effective. Fairly transparent even to a 12 y/o.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 07:35 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
No, that's the first law, conservation of energy.



Brownian motion is thermal energy, and is dependent on temperature, and hence entropy. To extract energy from Brownian motion, you have to decrease the entropy of the object you are extracting it from. If you don't simultaneously increase the entropy of another system by at least as much, then you have indeed violated the 2nd law. That requires this second object to have a lower temperature than the first. If that's the case, though, all you've done is invent a new form of heat engine. Which is cool, but not likely very useful.



Depends on details of the claim which seem unspecified. It is a rebutal of this being anything more than another form of heat engine.



The beauty and power of thermodynamics is that no, actually, you don't need any of those details to put some hard constraints on what's possible regardless of the details.
Comme j'ai dit. For further reading - Maxwell's Demon.

Tou're welcome.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 08:06 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
The beauty and power of thermodynamics is that no, actually, you don't need any of those details to put some hard constraints on what's possible regardless of the details.
This is a bit off topic, but I wanted to give an example of this power, by showing how it answers a question without needing details.

When a chick grows inside an egg, does the egg give off heat or absorb heat?
The egg must give off heat. The ungrown egg is in a high entropy state (molecules are arranged very randomly), but the grown chick is a low entropy state (very orderly arrangement of molecules). In order to lower its entropy, the egg must raise the entropy of its surroundings, which requires it to give off heat. You don't need to know any of the actual chemical processes involved in order determine this.

Many students get this question wrong because they think that chickens sit on the eggs in order to heat them, but they don't. They sit on the eggs to keep them from cooling off too fast. It's like wearing a jacket in cold weather: the jacket doesn't heat you up, your body generates the heat. The jacket just slows down the rate of heat loss.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 10:03 PM   #29
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I suggest this would find a use where there is a very low power requirement. Maybe phones, both cordless and mobile phones? The graphene would recharge the batteries. Or maybe in medical devices located inside humans.

But I agree with others, this is very unlikely to work.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 10:39 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
Ok, I've found an older article, where Thibado says "Thibado predicts that his generators could transform our environment, allowing any object to send, receive, process, and store information, powered only by room temperature heat. This would have significant implications for the effort to connect physical objects to the digital world, known as the Internet of Things. This self-charging, microscopic power source could make everyday objects into smart devices, as well as powering more sophisticated biomedical devices such as pace-makers, hearing aids, and wearable sensors." (see https://researchfrontiers.uark.edu/good-vibrations/)
Hmmmm......sounds kind of crackpot. Well, we'll see. I don't have the knowledge to say one way or another, but these claims sound a bit more fantastic.
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Old 3rd October 2020, 11:09 PM   #31
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I'll believe it when they tear down the nearest power plant and replace it with a pile of graphene. And some Brownies.
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Old 4th October 2020, 12:05 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
I'll believe it when they tear down the nearest power plant and replace it with a pile of graphene. And some Brownies.
Brownies are an excellent source of energy.
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Old 4th October 2020, 02:28 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Hmmmm......sounds kind of crackpot. Well, we'll see. I don't have the knowledge to say one way or another, but these claims sound a bit more fantastic.
Yes, that's the conclusion I'm leaning towards. The reporting here: https://phys.org/news/2020-10-physic...-graphene.html supports this.

It's pretty annoying that a decent physics journal, and a site like phys.org, wouldn't clearly ask the authors the question: "So, do you think this should be able to extract electrical work from a single thermal bath?"
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Old 4th October 2020, 04:45 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Modified View Post
I grew up half a mile from a 1KW AM radio tower. You could make a "radio" by just connecting a geranium diode to an earphone - no antenna or anything (apart from the earphone wire). You would also always hear the station faintly in the background when using a landline phone.
That does work, but I think you'd have found a dahlia vacuum tube worked even better.
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Old 4th October 2020, 07:00 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post

But my understanding is that Brownian motion is a perpetual motion arising from the nature of the molecule's existence as such.
I believe you are thinking of zero point energy, not Brownian motion.
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Old 4th October 2020, 07:15 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by paiute View Post
I believe you are thinking of zero point energy, not Brownian motion.
Good guess, but actually I was just thinking very ignorantly about Brownian motion.

At the risk of being obviously ignorant again, if Brownian motion requires an input of heat, then "Physicists Build Circuit That Generates Clean, Limitless Power From Graphene" seems like an obvious and inexcusable lie. The actual "clean, limitless power" would be coming from whatever produces the heat.

The University of Arkansas might as well claim that there's clean, limitless power from pressurized water vapor. Which is true, right up until the moment you start asking the folks at the power plant what they're doing to get all that vapor and pressure.

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Old 4th October 2020, 07:26 AM   #37
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A schematic of the circuit they're using: https://journals.aps.org/pre/article...gures/3/medium

The diodes are just back-to-back in parallel with each other. All they do is make a nonlinear resistor, there's no rectification being done. It looks like they just stuck another one in the other way around without understanding Brillouin's argument (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownian_ratchet#History).

Aaand...there's a voltage source in the circuit? Looks like they're biasing the graphene, as one plate of a capacitor. In short, they appear to have shown that condenser microphones work. Nobody ever said you couldn't detect Johnson noise...
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Old 4th October 2020, 08:03 AM   #38
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error in their instrumentation?
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Old 4th October 2020, 10:10 AM   #39
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Having a little more time, I went back and viewed the video in the OP. The animation contains a switch. This is a "Maxwell Demon" with electrons not molecules as in the direct classical sense. The circuit actually adds another step in the "energy extraction" process.

Per https://www.chem.uci.edu/undergraduate/applets/bounce/demon.htm"

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Alas, Maxwell's Demon is an impossible beast. He violates The Second Law, because the net effect of his manipulations is to transfer energy from inside the room to outside the room with no waste whatsoever. Oh well. If you would like a detailed exorcism of the Demon, the best is contained in Science and Information Theory (Academic Press, New York, 1956) in a beautiful article by Leon Brillouin, a giant of twentieth century physics. The essence of the refutation is that the Demon cannot see the molecules unless he uses a flashlight, and thus spends energy. Since the crux of the matter is the information the Demon must possess, you may see why the article is contained in a book on "Information Theory". And indeed it turns out there are deep connections between the Second Law and information theory -- the science of knowing when you know.
YMMV. IANAP.
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Old 4th October 2020, 10:15 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Modified View Post
I grew up half a mile from a 1KW AM radio tower. You could make a "radio" by just connecting a geranium diode to an earphone - no antenna or anything (apart from the earphone wire). You would also always hear the station faintly in the background when using a landline phone.
Same here. A neighbor had a lamp that if you put your ear close to it you could hear country music.
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