As beneficial as current solar panel technology has been in our quest to switch to renewable energy, such panels can’t generate electricity at night. Now, new research suggests it could be possible to design panels that can operate around the clock.
Under optimum conditions, at night these specially designed photovoltaic cells could generate a quarter of the energy they produce during the day, according to the new study.
To achieve this, we’d need to incorporate thermoradiative cells – devices that generate energy thanks to radiative cooling, where infrared or heat radiation leaves the cell and produces a small amount of energy in the process.
Thermoradiative cells are already being tested in fields such as manufacturing, where they are used to convert waste heat, such as the high temperatures generated by an engine.
In the case of a night-time solar panel, pointing such a cell at the cold night sky is a way to harness this process.