Engineers Have Innovated Solar Panels That Generate Electricity At Night!

Oct 21, 2022by Olivia Harper - F&F

A team of engineers at Stanford University have developed a solar cell that can generate electricity at night! Let’s take a look.

Like The Sun, The Coldness Of Space Is A Renewable Energy Source!

This new research has come at the perfect time — when the number of solar jobs and residential installations are rising. While regular solar panels provide electricity during the day, this device can serve as a "continuous renewable power source for both day and nighttime," according to the study published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

How was this achieved? Researchers at Stanford altered commercially available solar panels to generate a small amount of electricity at night by using a process known as radiative cooling, which relies on the cold temperatures of the air around the panels — who knew this was possible?

Researchers of the project say that just like the sun, the coldness of outer space is also an extremely important renewable energy resource.

Night SkyNight Sky

Image: Canva

How Do These Nighttime Solar Panels Work Exactly?

These modified panels incorporate a thermoelectric generator, which can pull electricity from the small difference in temperature between the ambient air and the solar cell itself. Basically, when an object is facing the sky at night, it radiates heat to outer space, meaning that an object can become cooler than the air temperature around it.

At this stage the energy output of these panels is significantly lower than what a commercial solar panel can produce during the day. But this is still fantastic news! Researchers are saying that it will still be useful for some of the low power density applications - such as  nighttime lighting, charging devices, and keeping sensors and monitoring equipment online.

Solar PanelsSolar Panels

Image: LifeTerra

This Technology Can Even Be Used In Off-Grid & Mini-Grid Networks!

The potential for this technology is infinite, and could even bring hope to the 770 million people without electricity! It’s also promising in the rise of global supply issues of electricity, due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The engineers at Stanford have an approach to “provide nighttime standby lighting and power in off-grid and mini-grid applications, where [solar] cell installations are gaining popularity." Mini-grid applications are independent electricity networks, which can be used when a population is too small or too far away to extend the grid.

Only recently did solar energy decline in price and become much more affordable. So now some companies are buying into the program, and even the state of California has incentivised the shift to solar!

This is some epic news coming out of Standford University! We think this new technology is revolutionary and has great potential to be used for a variety of applications. What are your thoughts on these thermoelectric panels? Let us know in the comments below!

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