Can we use the cosmic background radiation as a source of power? This depends on your definition of background radiation. In this case lets look at the cosmic radiation. (there is EMF and Rf generated by man) This is also not to be confused with ability to harvest energy from Earth’s thermal infrared emission and other thermal sources. That is a subject of many other topics including Simon’s experiments.
The answer is no as the power level is 450 million times less than solar radiation.
The following question was asked two years ago on the Quora forum : https://www.quora.com/Can-we-use-the-cosmic-background-radiation-as-a-source-of-power. The following answers are very informative.
Thanks for asking, but Mark Barton already hasin which he points out that we use the cosmic background as a dump for waste heat.
When most people are asked what the Sun provides to the Earth, they’d say it’s free (solar) energy. But wait a moment… a continuous influx of solar energy would mean that the Earth would be heating up like crazy, no? Well, it doesn’t… and the reason it doesn’t is because it emits the exact same amount of energy (in the form of thermal radiation into deep space) as it receives from the Sun. In other words: the net energy balance is zero.
So then why do we need solar energy anyway? Well… solar energy comes in the form of relatively high energy visible light photons. It is then dumped into space in the form of much lower energy thermal photons. A great many more of them.
Indeed, for each solar photon corresponding to roughly 6000 degrees Kelvin, the Earth emits roughly 20 thermal photons at 300 degrees Kelvin. And this leads us to the concept of entropy. Entropy is basically the measure of disorder in a system. And a system with 20 times as many photons can have a lot more disorder in it.
Which is why the ability to dump heat into the cosmic background is so important for life. We get solar radiation, with its relatively low entropy; this allows for the existence of highly ordered systems like plants, animals, humans or computers; and the waste heat, a source of disorder, is dumped into space in the form of high entropy thermal radiation.
Now as to using the energy from the cosmic microwave background… not a chance. First of all, if you did it, you would need a way to dump waste heat in the form of even lower energy photons somewhere, and there is no natural sink colder than deep space. But also, the emitted power of the microwave background is minuscule. It is about 3 millionth of a watt per square meter. In contrast, in the vicinity of the Sun, solar power is about 1370 watts per square meter, or roughly 450 million times more. Put another way, if you used the entire surface of the Earth, every square inch of it, as a lossless cosmic microwave power collector, you would harvest 1.5 gigawatts, equivalent to a single large-ish nuclear or hydroelectric power station. And, I emphasize, this power comes in the form of very low quality (high entropy) photons, so it is rather useless anyway.
And the antenna would cost millions and collect billionths of a cent of energy per year. Not economical.
While this might be technically possible, it is not economically feasible in any way. The cosmic background radiation is weak, really really weak. You can get more energy from a new moon on a cloudy night than you get from the cosmic background.