MIT researchers have come up with a device that harvests energy from changes in temperature.

The new ‘thermal resonator’ has a foam made of nickel or copper at its core, coated with graphene to increase conductivity.

The device is infused with octadecane - a phase-changing material that can store electricity.

The resonator is able to capture heat on one side and store it on the other.

The device would be used to gather energy from just about anything that cycles through different temperatures.

“We’re surrounded by temperature variations and fluctuations,” says Michael Strano from the MIT chemical engineering laboratory.

“We are surrounded by temperature fluctuations of all different frequencies all of the time. These are an untapped source of energy.”

The first working prototype produces a tiny 1.3 milliwatts of current, but even this could be enough for a low power application such as powering sensors in remote locations.

“It’s something that can sit on a desk and generate energy out of what seems like nothing,” Strano says.

RMIT engineering professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh says it is “a novel development with a great future”.

“It can potentially play an unexpected role in complementary energy harvesting units. To compete with other energy harvesting technologies, always higher voltages and powers are demanded.

“However, I personally feel that it is quite possible to gain a lot more out of this by investing more into the concept. It is an attractive technology which will be potentially followed by many others in the near future.”