Solar power is a promising avenue for clean energy. Solar panels are not able to generate electricity in darkness, which is a major problem. However, this weakness could soon change as scientists at Stanford University have now created a solar panel that works in the dark.
The researchers published their findings on the new type of solar panel in the journal Applied Physics Letters back in April of 2022. They discovered how to make solar panels operate in darkness. However, the researchers also found a way for existing solar panels to be made to produce power at night. This could save businesses and homeowners from buying new panels. Radiative cooling is a process that makes older solar panels function in darkness. When the sun sets, the Earth cools down, releasing heat into the air. This helps to create a temperature difference between the air and the surface of the panels. Then, researchers say that we can install thermoelectric generators onto the panels, allowing us to harness the power generated by radiative cooling. This isn’t the first time this idea has been presented. Back in 2020, researchers with the University of California did something similar with what they called an “anti-solar panel.” Photovoltaic solar panels already take advantage of this radiative cooling to generate electricity after the sun sets, allowing those solar panels to work in the dark.
Why haven’t people heard about it if solar panels can generate electricity after the sun sets. Well, that’s because it doesn’t generate tons of electricity. Instead, some estimate it only generates around 25 percent of the energy a solar panel can generate in a typical day. But that’s still clean energy that you didn’t have before, so it’s worth harnessing while you can.
Other advancements in solar power have also seen solar panels that don’t need sunlight to generate electricity. These panels work in the same way as fruits and vegetables, using ultraviolet light to generate electricity. You can find out more information about them in our report.
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