14: A solar cell that works at night


Solar cells cannot function at night.


Jeremy Munday and Tristan Deppe at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California Davis have developed a thermoradiative cell which generates electrical current as it radiates infrared light (heat) toward the night sky and extreme cold of deep space.

ACS Photonics, a publication of the American Chemical Society, says of the illustration at the top of this solution “The Perspective featured depicts a nighttime photovoltaic device that generates power by looking up at the night sky, behaving like a solar cell in reverse.”

The abstract of the research paper on the cell says:

In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.

Such a cell could generate up to 50 watts of power per square meter under ideal conditions at night, about a quarter of what a conventional solar panel can generate in daytime.

Jeremy Munday and Tristan Deppe, “Nighttime Photovoltaic Cells: Electrical Power Generation by Optically Coupling with Deep Space,” ACS Photonics January 7, 2020.

Discover solution 15: water bomber super scoopers

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