Just when you thought solar panels couldn’t get any better you find that you were far from correct! Thanks to a few scientists, we may now find ourselves with solar panels that generate energy whether it’s sunny outside or dark.
Professor Jeremy Munday was one of the leading scientists who published a research paper at the University of California Davis that suggested nighttime solar cells that would capture the heat from the sun that escapes the earth in the evening. Once the cells capture the heat emitting from the earth, they would then generate up to 50 watts of power per square meter, a quarter of what conventional panels can generate in the daytime. “Another wonderful thing about this is that the solar cells would also work in the daytime if the light was blocked or they were pointed away from the sun,” said Munday during an interview with Science Daily. “Some research even suggests that we could use them to harness the waste heat generated by machinery. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same,” Munday continued.
The concept is that solar panels would go beyond simply relying on the sun for its energy. Now, panels would have the ability to generate energy by heat that emits from the ground, rather then merely relying on the absorption of light. This scientific advancement would allow solar panel usage to increase in areas regardless of the weather and would assist in the generation of power for those who live in colder climates.
In 2019, the American Institute of Physics discussed in an issue of Applied Physics Letters how they created an experimental device that would generate electricity from the cool air coming from deep space. In this experiment, scientists attempted to prove the theory that “the chilling outflow of energy from the device created would be harvested using the same kind of optoelectronic physics that is used to harness solar energy.” According to the AIP, in contrast to leveraging incoming energy as a normal solar cell would, “the negative illumination effect allows electrical energy to be harvested as heat leaves a surface.” The biggest hiccup, however, was that today’s technology fails to capture energy over these negative temperatures differences as efficiently. Of course, the scientists are working to improve the technological device that could recover waste heat, and they are also continuing their research to prove that machines would have the power to serve the same purpose.
Reverse solar panels would revolutionize the way we generate energy and would close the gap that stands in the way of allowing solar energy to be utilized worldwide. By eliminating the need for sunlight when harvesting energy through solar panels, we will indeed see an expansion throughout the region on solar renewable energy usage. Although the research itself still has a way to go, we can all feel good knowing that soon we will have the capacity to generate clean energy whether it’s raining, dark, or cloudy. This is the type of sustainability that will also create renewable hope within us all.
By Audra L.