Solar cells that work through the night may seem like a far-fetched idea, but it may soon become a reality. The University of California (UC), Davis researchers have been developing prototypes for an ‘anti-solar’ cell that would work exactly reverse of a typical solar panel. The new research suggests that it could be possible to design panels that could operate around the clock.
The specially designed photovoltaic cells could theoretically generate a quarter of the energy they produce during the day under optimum conditions. The researchers stated the need to incorporate thermoradiative cells that could generate energy because of radiative cooling. Radiative cooling is the process by which a body loses heat by thermal radiation. The thermoradiative cells are being tested in manufacturing fields, where they are used to convert escaping heat into electricity.
In a new paper published in the journal ACS Photonics, the researchers have detailed how they built the anti-solar panels, which works due to radiative cooling. Jeremy Munday, an electrical and computer engineer from UC, states that they were curious about what would happen if they took one of the devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky. The team also experimented with different kinds of materials and electronic components, focusing on visible light to produce an effective panel that could use the night sky and space as a heat sink. Munday also commented that physics was the same in both the technologies; only the materials used are different.
Though the technology had to go a long way to go in terms of scaling up, the team so far has only prototypes in development. The new research points out that it can be made potentially cheaper and inexpensive to keep solar cells operating 24 hours a day.
In conclusion, the researchers state that deep space is an intriguing and relatively unexplored field. Still, it can help provide electrical power at night and day through the clever use of materials science, optics, and photonics.