The very name solar panel indicates that this source of power requires sunlight and does not work at night when the sun has set. However, a researcher in California claims to have found a way for such panels to keep generating power, even after the sun has set. Jeremy Munday is working on a prototype panel that he says is capable of such a feat.
How It Would Work
Solar panels, at their core, are cold objects that are directed at the bright, extremely hot sun. They absorb light, generating power. Munday’s proposal, however, would reverse the process. His thermoradiative cells would work by heating up and pointing at the sky at night, a cooler object by far. The object that is hotter than its surroundings will radiate that heat in the form of infrared light. Regular solar cells generate power through the absorption of sunlight. This causes current to flow. In new devices, light is emitted; the voltage travels opposite the first example, but power is still generated.
Solar Panels in the Dark
When the sun is obscured or down, solar panels do not produce energy. Instead, they provide power through net metering. Surplus power gets transferred to a public power grid to offset costs. This occurs when solar panels provide more power than a house needs during the day. Other panels store extra power to push through the night, although batteries can prove to be expensive. These devices, unlike the limited solar cells, could work 24/7, meaning that power is not lost with the setting sun.
Sustainable Use of Fossil Fuels
Munday’s anti-solar panels can rely in a sustainable way on fossil fuels. Theoretically, they could use wasted heat that is leftover from industrial processes. This helps attain carbon neutrality, which refers to the balance of carbon emissions and carbon removal, so there is no release of net carbon. This balance makes the solution environment and budget-friendly.
Anti-solar panels, unfortunately, produce less energy. The prototypes already made give only about a quarter of the energy traditional solar panels are capable of generating during the day. Current solar panels take the upper hand because of their decades of development compared to Munday’s prototypes.