Home Sciences Is night solar energy born? They make a pioneering device

Is night solar energy born? They make a pioneering device

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The absence of sun at night is not a problem to generate clean electricity. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have shown that radiant infrared heat from the Earth can be used to generate solar electricity at night. doNight solar energy is born?

The team from the School of Photovoltaic Engineering and Renewable Energies of the aforementioned university has managed, after extensive research, to generate electricity from the heat radiated by the surface in the form of infrared light.

To generate this energy from infrared light a semiconductor device called a heat-radiating diode was createdmade up of the same materials that can be found in night vision goggles.

Though the amount of energy generated at the moment is very smallabout 100,000 times less than that supplied by a solar panel, the researchers believe that the result can be improved in the future.

“We have unequivocally demonstrated electrical power from a heat-radiation diode,” said Ned Ekins-Daukes, team leader. “With thermal imaging cameras you can see how much radiation there is at night, but only in the infrared and not in the visible wavelengths. What we have done is to manufacture a device that can generate electrical energy from the emission of infrared thermal radiation”he added.

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In reality, according to Professor Ekins-Daukes, the process is still harnessing solar energy, which reaches Earth during the day in the form of light and heats the planet.

At night, this same energy radiates out into the cold emptiness of outer space in the form of infrared light. What has now been shown is that the thermodiative diode is capable of generating electricity taking advantage of this process.

“Whenever there is a flow of energy, we can convert it in different ways. Photovoltaics, that is, the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity, is an artificial process that human beings have developed to convert solar energy into energy. In that sense, the thermal radiation process is similar; we are diverting the energy that flows in the infrared from a warm Earth to cold space”, says Phoebe Pearce, co-author of the work.

The same thing that happened with photovoltaic panels

“In the same way that a solar cell can generate electricity by absorbing sunlight emitted by a very hot sun, the radiant diode generates electricity by emitting infrared light in a cooler environment. In both cases, the temperature difference is what allows electricity to be generated,” he adds.

The progress made by the UNSW team represents the confirmation of a process that was theoretical until now and is the first step for the manufacture of specialized devicesand much more efficient, which could one day capture energy on a much larger scale.

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Professor Ekins-Daukes compares the new research to the work of Bell Labs engineers who created the first silicon solar cell in 1954.That first cell was only about 2% efficient.but now modern cells are capable of converting about 23% of sunlight into electricity.

The also co-author of the research Michael Nielsen has been optimistic: “Even if the commercialization of these solar cells does not take place in the immediate future, solar energy technology can be very effective: being at the beginning of an idea evolving is a very exciting place for a researcher.

“Leveraging our knowledge of solar cell design and optimization and borrowing materials from the mid-infrared photodetector environment, we hope to move quickly towards the dream of night solar energy”, he adds.

The research team believe the new technology could have a number of practical uses in the future to help produce electricity in ways not currently possible.

The research team now hopes that industry leaders will recognize the potential of the new technology and support its development.

Reference note: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/night-time-solar-technology-can-now-deliver-power-dark

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