Stanford University researchers have built a small prototype solar panel to generate power day and night.
It works like a classic solar panel and converts sunlight into electricity during the day. At night, “an embedded thermoelectric generator (TEG) harvests electricity from the temperature difference between the PV cell and the environment,” according to the Article published in Applied Physics Letters and sighted via TheDailyBeast.
The technology works by capturing the heat of the day in a heat sink. When this energy is then naturally radiated back into space, some of it can be captured by the TEG and a unique material that can capture thermal wavelengths.
The concept is not new as we have already published about anti-solar panels. However, the amount of energy collected at night is significantly higher than previous attempts, bringing the technology a step closer to real-world use.
However, many challenges remain. First, the power generated at night is only 50mW/m2 compared to ~1000 W/m2 for a standard solar panel (note we went from milliwatts to watts). Second, the heat cools relatively quickly, resulting in a decreasing amount of electricity produced.
The technology is exciting and could likely be used in low power applications or anywhere a reliable heat source is available. Of course, we still have decades of research potential to further optimize this method.
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