Unlike conventional solar panels, which convert sunlight into energy by absorption, researchers’ novel radiative cooling technology works in the opposite direction.
Even though there isn’t any heat for solar panels to collect at night, heat still leaves the system that can be converted into electricity. This radiating heat spreads outward as infrared light when a warm solar panel is pointed at a cooling night sky. If we took advantage of this radiative cooling’s potential, towns could use it as a cheap source of nighttime lighting.
Researchers have developed a rooftop proof-of-concept that, in theory, can produce 2.2 watts per square meter (10.7 sq ft) without needing an external energy source using a thermodynamic model of a thermoelectric power generator. The researchers are working to create high-performance, environmentally friendly lighting systems that can give everyone access to dependable, affordable lighting energy sources, including those in rural and developing regions. A modular energy source could also transform car waste heat into usable power and power off-grid sensors in various applications.
The researchers assert that their particular design is equivalent to the performance of a Carnot heat engine, a theoretical thermodynamic limit for the “perfect” engine, and can generate 120 times more energy than comparable models.
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