New research proves it’s possible
“But what happens at night?”
It’s one of the most basic and obvious questions that people ask about solar energy. And of course the answer is: not much. Fortunately, solar panel technology has reached a level of efficiency that even homes with only moderate sun exposure can generate enough energy during the day to make a big difference on homeowners’ utility bills. An exciting advance in technology means that the day may come, however, when solar panels can serve a useful purpose even after the sun goes down.
Engineers at Stanford University recently announced they’ve created a solar cell which is capable of generating electricity at night. How is this possible? Essentially, it’s achieved by exploiting the same scientific principles which allow solar panels to generate power during the day, but in reverse. Solar panels generate power when they’re struck by the photons in rays of sunlight. At night, photons leave the solar panel, carrying heat with them. The difference in temperature between the panels and the night air can be harnessed by a device called a thermoelectric generator and turned into usable electricity.
At the moment, the amount of energy produced is still very small – and although there’s a lot of room for optimizing the process, solar panels will obviously never be as efficient at night as they are during the day. However, while it’s very unlikely we’ll reach the point where rooftop solar will allow you to power your whole home in the dead of night, the trickle of electricity produced is already enough to be potentially useful for things like illuminating LED lights, charging a cellphone, or powering environmental sensors. These applications could be very helpful for the part of the world’s population still living without access to an electrical grid, and could reduce the need for batteries, which require maintenance and replacement because of their inherently limited lifespans.
This exciting innovation shows how continued research is opening up possibilities for solar energy to have a positive impact that wouldn’t have been thought possible just a few short years ago. Be sure to follow Zenernet on social media to keep up with the latest news on how solar is changing our world – and if you want to find out how it can change your world by allowing you to live more comfortably and save money, schedule a talk with one of our energy consultants today.