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This solar panel could generate electricity even at night

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: February 5, 2020 11:29:26 am

solar panels, thermoradiative cell, photovoltaic cell, anti solar cell, solar panel nighttime, solar panel energy during night, university of california New research explains how new kind of solar panels could generate power at night. (Representational image: Pixabay)

With Climate Change knocking at our door, countries around the world are trying to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel and embrace renewable energy. Some parts of the world have taken the solar panel technology quite seriously but as beneficial as these panels are, solar power plants cannot generate electricity at night.

But what if these solar panels could operate around the clock? According to a study published in the ACS Photonics, it is possible to design solar panels that can produce energy during the night.

How do the anti-solar cells work?

A regular solar cell generates power when it absorbs photons of light from the sun to generate a voltage across the device for the current to flow. However, in these specially designed photovoltaic cells, light is instead emitted to generate current and voltage, which go in the opposite direction but still produce energy.

The drawback of these “anti-solar cells” or thermoradiative cells, at the moment, is that the electricity produced is way lower than the power generated by the conventional solar cells.

solar panels, thermoradiative cell, photovoltaic cell, anti solar cell, solar panel nighttime, solar panel energy during night, university of california Thermoradiative cells (right) compared to solar cells (left). (Image: Tristan Deppe and Jeremy Munday)

According to the authors of the paper — Jeremy Munday, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of California, Davis and graduate student Tristan Deppe — photovoltaic cell could generate up to 50 watts of power per square meter under ideal conditions at night, which is about a quarter of what a conventional solar panel can generate in daytime.

Munday says that an object that is hot compared to its surroundings will radiate heat as infrared light. Since space is cold, if you have a warm object and point it at the sky, it will radiate heat toward it. He says that people have been using this phenomenon for nighttime cooling for hundreds of years and researchers have been exploring the use of thermoradiative cell that generates power by radiating heat to its surroundings.

[Simple, inexpensive frame to boost solar cell efficiency]

Munday says that the thermoradiative cell pointed at the night sky would emit infrared light because it is warmer than outer space. According to the study, the device would work during the day as well, if steps were taken to either block direct sunlight or point it away from the sun.

This would allow this new type of solar cell to operate around the clock and provide an intriguing option to balance the power grid over the day-night cycle.

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Updated: February 8, 2020 — 1:25 am

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