Aussie researchers achieve night-time solar in world first

Solar panel in front of well-lit cityscape at night (solar at night)
Image: Shutterstock

Australian researchers have made a major breakthrough in demonstrating “night-time solar” technology, according to ABC Radio National‘s Drive program.

“In a sense, we’ve only been dealing with half of the opportunity, when we use photovoltaic solar cells to collect sunlight [during the day],” project leader Associate Professor Ned Ekins-Daukes said.

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Even after the sun sets the potential for solar energy remains, Professor Ekins-Daukes said.

“We get energy from the sun—it arrives, it warms up the Earth but then the Earth actually radiates the exact same amount of energy back out into space,” he says.

“As the energy flows from the Earth’s surface … [there is a] thermal emission out into the universe that we can tap.”

Professor Ekins-Daukes and his team say that if the flow of this radiant heat could be tapped by a power cell device and converted into electricity, there’s “a large and unused spectrum of potential power to be exploited”.

In a new study published in ACS Photonics, the team used a thermoradiative diode (a semiconductor sensor found in existing technologies like night-vision goggles) to capture photons leaving Earth along the infrared spectrum and converted them into electricity.

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“What you’re doing is interrupting that flow of radiant heat, which is released every night out into the universe anyway, and tapping off a little bit of electricity from that,” Professor Ekins-Daukes said.

He said the technology “allows us to generate electricity at night, just from the cold night sky.”

Read the full article here.

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