Nav: Home

Anti-solar cells: A photovoltaic cell that works at night

January 29, 2020

What if solar cells worked at night? That's no joke, according to Jeremy Munday, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis. In fact, a specially designed photovoltaic 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, according to a concept paper by Munday and graduate student Tristan Deppe. The article was published in, and featured on the cover of, the January 2020 issue of ACS Photonics.

Munday, who recently joined UC Davis from the University of Maryland, is developing prototypes of these nighttime solar cells that can generate small amounts of power. The researchers hope to improve the power output and efficiency of the devices.

Munday said that the process is similar to the way a normal solar cell works, but in reverse. An object that is hot compared to its surroundings will radiate heat as infrared light. A conventional solar cell is cool compared to the sun, so it absorbs light.

Space is really, really cold, so if you have a warm object and point it at the sky, it will radiate heat toward it. People have been using this phenomenon for nighttime cooling for hundreds of years. In the last five years, Munday said, there has been a lot of interest in devices that can do this during the daytime (by filtering out sunlight or pointing away from the sun).

Generating power by radiating heat

There's another kind of device called a thermoradiative cell that generates power by radiating heat to its surroundings. Researchers have explored using them to capture waste heat from engines.

"We were thinking, what if we took one of these devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky," Munday said.

This thermoradiative cell pointed at the night sky would emit infrared light because it is warmer than outer space.

"A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow. In these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power," Munday said. "You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same."

The device would work during the day as well, if you took steps to either block direct sunlight or pointed it away from the sun. Because this new type of solar cell could potentially operate around the clock, it is an intriguing option to balance the power grid over the day-night cycle.
-end-


University of California - Davis

Related Solar Cell Articles:

Windows will soon generate electricity, following solar cell breakthrough
Semi-transparent solar cells that can be incorporated into window glass are a 'game-changer' that could transform architecture, urban planning and electricity generation, Australian scientists say in a paper in Nano Energy.
Ultrathin organic solar cell is both efficient and durable
Scientists have succeeded in creating an ultrathin organic solar cell that is both highly efficient and durable.
Layered solar cell technology boosts efficiency, affordability
Researchers from CU Boulder have created a low-cost solar cell with one of the highest power-conversion efficiencies to date, by layering cells and using a unique combination of elements.
Anti-solar cells: A photovoltaic cell that works at night
What if solar cells worked at night? That's no joke, according to Jeremy Munday, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis.
Promising discovery could lead to a better, cheaper solar cell
McGill University researchers have gained tantalizing new insights into the properties of perovskites, one of the world's most promising materials in the quest to produce a more efficient, robust and cheaper solar cell.
Biological material boosts solar cell performance
Next-generation solar cells that mimic photosynthesis with biological material may give new meaning to the term 'green technology.' Adding the protein bacteriorhodopsin (bR) to perovskite solar cells boosted the efficiency of the devices in a series of laboratory tests, according to an international team of researchers.
Experiments show dramatic increase in solar cell output
Researchers at MIT and Princeton have found a way to increase the output of silicon solar cells by allowing a single photon to release two electrons in the silicon.
Winds of change...Solar variability weakens the Walker cell
An international team of researchers has found robust evidence for signatures of the 11-year sunspot cycle in the tropical Pacific.
Improving solar cell efficiency with a bucket of water
Beth Parks has devised an astonishingly simple way to overcome a limitation of solar cells -- a bucket of water.
Solar panels for yeast cell biofactories
In a study in Science, a multidisciplinary team led by Core Faculty member Neel Joshi and Postdoctoral Fellows Junling Guo and Miguel Suástegui at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A.
More Solar Cell News and Solar Cell Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.