University of Michigan boffins have discovered, while shooting lasers through glass, that light shining through non conductive materials exhibit strong magnetic characteristics.
The magnetic properties of light were thought to be so weak that they could simply be ignored. With this research that has all changed, the assumption as it turns out was drastically wrong. They discovered that extremely powerful light can generate magnetic fields 100 million times stronger than previously estimated. “Strong enough to induce useable voltages and create magnetic batteries.” Professor Stephen Rand says, adding, “Enough sunlight, focused into an optical fiber, could generate electricity – that’s is a simple way to think about it.”
Along with the obvious optical properties of light it also has electric and magnetic qualities. Solar panels take advantage of the electrical properties of light. These new panels will use the magnetic properties of light to create a solar panel, with the potential to produce a similar amount of power as a traditional solar panel – 10% efficiency -. This does raise the interesting idea of hybrid Electric-magnetic panels for twice the power per square meter. Add in Thermal and you have the big three.
Currently the main drawback is the required 10 million watts per square centimeter of light to induce the effect, normal sunlight produces 0.136 watts per centimeter. Research is still in its infancy so these and other hurdles will present themselves but possibilities like clear windows that generate electricity, magnetic batteries and self-powered displays will keep the white coats solving problems. Maybe even more important though is this discovery will change the way we think about light and magnetic fields interacting.
This is a monumental discovery that opens up a whole new field of science, new possibilities. This is a much bigger change than just some new power source, it’s a whole new side to light that we were blinkered to for so long. Longer term this may change how we look at light –no pun intended – this crosses the light and magnetic boundaries. How much of a game changer this is will take time. Solid numbers are required before any solid conclusions can be made. The Journal of Applied Physics this week published the initial paper by Professor Stephen Rand and doctoral student William Fisher. Keep an eye on this one it will get real interesting.
Buddha’s Brother out…