Technology 2 min read

Nighttime Photovoltaic Cells For When the Sun Goes Down

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abriendomundo /

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are developing prototype nighttime photovoltaic cells that’ll work at night.

An object that’s hotter than its surroundings would radiate heat as infrared light. Conversely, when you have an object that’s warmer than the surrounding, it’ll radiate heat.

For example, conventional photovoltaics absorbs energy from the sun because of its lower temperature. This causes a current flow across the device, which, in turn, leads to electricity. That’s why solar panels are an excellent source of renewable energy.

However, they are only useful when the sun is up during daylight hours.

To generate power after the sunset, Jeremy Munday of UC Davis had to reverse the solar panel process. He devised a special nighttime photovoltaic cell that radiates heat to its surroundings.

In a statement, Munday said:

“A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow. In these new devices, light is instead emitted, and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power.”

In a concept paper in ACS Photonics, the researcher described how it works.

Using Nighttime Photovoltaic Cells to Generate Power

According to Munday, people have used this principle for nighttime cooling for hundreds of years. However, interest in devices that can generate power at night has surged in recent times.

The nighttime photovoltaic cell could generate as much as 50 watts of power per square meter under ideal nighttime conditions. That’s about 25 percent of what a regular solar panel makes during the day.

Be that as it may, Munday and his colleagues hope to improve the special solar cell’s power output and efficiency.

We were thinking, what if we took one of these devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky,” Munday says. That way, the thermoradiative cell would emit infrared light in the night sky because it’s warmer than outer space.

Munday points out that it’s possible to use the device in the day. To generate power from the nighttime photovoltaic cells in the daytime, users must either block it from direct sunlight or point it away from the sun.

The unique solar cell could potentially work round the clock. And this could help balance the power grid of the day-night.

Read More: Key Mystery About Solar Panel Efficiency Finally Solved

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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