MYSUN’s blog series on the Interesting ways the world is using Solar Energy has in the past explored the various innovations in solar technology, such as solar boats, cars, robots, paint, and even airships. Although all these innovations are great and have pushed the envelope of global solar technology, there has always been one caveat when it comes to solar – how do you generate solar energy at night?
There may finally be an answer:
Solar Panels That Work at Night
Jeremy Munday, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department of the University of California, Davis, recently appeared in the news for discovering a way to generate electricity from solar panels even after the sun has set. The professor and researcher have been working on a solar panel prototype which in its current phase of R&D can produce 50 watts of electricity per square meter, which is about a quarter of what traditional solar panels can generate during a bright sunny day.
How Does This Technology Work?
As per Professor Jeremy Munday, "A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for the current to flow. In these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage move in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same."
These solar panels are made of thermo-radiative cells to facilitate the process, as the heat required to run the process can be gathered from the leftover heat of industrial processes, as per Professor Munday.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Solar Energy?
If successful on a commercial scale, this newly discovered technology will mean that solar panels will become functional 24x7, which will enhance the benefits of solar. As of today, a consumer saves up to 80% on electricity bills by generating power during the day, and transmitting surplus energy generated back to the grid through net-metering and then drawing this energy back during the night.
With this new technology, there is a likely possibility that solar energy will become the primary source of energy, and may help consumers save close to 100% on electricity bills.
While the development of these night sky solar panels is still at a very nascent stage, the fact that the prototype developed so far is already capable of generating 50 watts of electricity per square meter is very interesting. The potential of solar energy as a primary source of power for the world was never in question at all. But, something like this could potentially improve the interest manifold. This innovation seeks to break the limitation and is on its way towards unleashing the potential of solar even further. We can’t wait to see how the development proceeds further.