Capturing Solar Energy After The Sunset

Capturing Solar Energy After The Sunset

Capturing Solar Energy After The Sunset

Do solar panels generate energy after the sun sets? The traditional solar panels are capable of generating energy only when the sun shines. But, new developments are changing the scenario. The innovative and specially designed solar panels are efficient at tackling the existing problems with solar energy and can generate power even when the sun has gone down.

Challenges in solar energy generation

As you know, conventional solar panels can produce power only when there is sunlight. Solar energy is truly a precious resource for the emerging energy demands. However, the obvious drawback is the availability of the sun. As long as the sun shines in the daytime, you continue to reap the energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. Now, there comes a breakthrough innovation that has the potential to significantly increase the amount of solar energy generation that allows harnessing from the sun after the sun sets.

Solar Panels That Work at Night

A group of researchers at Stanford University has come up with an idea to allow for 24-hour renewable energy generation through a technology of radiative cooling. These uniquely developed night solar panels (NSP) can generate up to 50W at optimal conditions at night. This is almost equal to a quarter of a traditional solar panel generated in the daytime, as per the concept paper by Munday and Tristan Deppe(graduate student).

Solar Panels That Work at Night

Based on the advantageous factor of temperature difference between solar panels and ambient air, scientists have come up with solar cells that could generate electricity at night.  The concept of radiative cooling which involves materials radiating heat into the sky at night makes this possible.

The modified solar cells have a special kind of generator installed into the current solar cells. This enables adopting the temperature changes to produce power from radiative cooling at night.

Generating Power By Radiating Heat

To make the scenario of capturing solar energy after sunset possible, the research team has created a semiconductor device – thermoradiative diode. This device relies on the temperature difference between the Earth’s hot atmosphere and the cool outer space. The device incorporates materials that can detect infrared activity.

How does it work? The heat energy travels from hot to cold areas. Generally, the earth absorbs heat from the sun. During nighttime, this heat energy leaves the earth as infrared light. The earth becomes a heat source at night, and the space’s cool temperature is the cold absorber. Applying the thermodynamics principle enables the generation of electricity with this temperature difference.

Night Solar panels

Harvesting infrared light at night ensures continuous solar power energy generation. Similar to the conventional process of producing power during the day, these night panels “run in reverse” which allows generating electricity at night. As of now, the amount of energy generated from the device is too small to power a solar panel. However, it is anticipated that the set-up can be enhanced to produce more power and scale up to a commercial product.

To admit that the 50W capacity power generation from the night panels is not a big amount of power when compared with traditional solar cells that are produced during the day. However, it will be sufficient for a power backup source in off-grid or low-resource locations. In addition, this night panel idea is a more affordable and longer-lasting solution rather than using a battery to store solar power.

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