Solar panels are some of the most efficient devices for producing green electricity. Even so, some people say, “Yes, but they only work during the day. At night what do we do?”
A team of researchers at Stanford University has partially solved this problem, developing solar panels that work even at night. Their results were detailed in a paper published in Applied Physics Letters.
At the heart of the new technology is radiative cooling, the process by which a body loses heat through thermal radiation.
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On the plus side, today’s solar panels can be modified to produce energy even at night. So systems can be mounted on the panels that include thermoelectric generators, developed by researchers at Stanford, which exploit the temperature difference between them and the outside environment.
“We tend to think of the sun as the important renewable energy resource. But the coolness of outer space (n.e. – which causes the temperature on Earth to drop at night) is also an extremely important renewable energy resource,” wrote Shanhui Fan, one of the study’s authors.
Modified solar panels don’t produce much electricity at night, but the technology could be extremely useful in the future.
But even now, according to Fan, the technology his team has developed can power devices – LEDs, sensors, small electronics – at night with little electricity consumption.
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