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The solar panels are an incredibly important tool to generate clean and sustainable energy. Its popularity and efficiency are increasing day by day, but there is a problem. They only work half the day.
And in some parts of the world with drastic fluctuations in their availability of daylight, such as the Nordic countries, these panels can be inefficient not only for parts of the day but for large parts of the year. As a solution, the solar panel.
Sunscreen panels offer a way to capture energy at night. Together with conventional solar panels, sunscreen panels create a sustainable energy source that can be used all day and all year round.
New research has developed a system to optimize it.
A team of researchers from Stanford University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have theoretically optimized the existing infrastructure for solar panels: thermoelectric power generators.
These generators create electrical voltage by converting the temperature differences between a heat source (for example, ambient air temperature at night) and a specially cooled surface of the generator.
Although these generators already exist, the study authors argue that they are not living up to their potential and that they are not sustainable options for off-grid power generation.
Lingling Fan, the study’s first author and a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford University, says his study aims to optimize this existing design.
We are working to develop a generation of high-performance sustainable lighting that can provide everyone – including those in rural and developing areas – access to reliable and sustainable low-cost lighting energy sources.
Fan says a modular energy system like this could even be used to convert waste heat from cars into usable energy.
Despite their linguistic similarity to the common solar panel, sunscreen panels do not look like conventional photovoltaic panels.
The team has experimented with simulating different improvements, such as the way heat flows through the system and the use of commercially available thermoelectric materials to improve the system’s energy efficiency.
Wei Li, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, says that one of the most important changes they simulated was the use of a material to better control how the generator dumped excess heat.
One of the most important innovations was the design of a selective emitter that is fixed on the cold side of the device. This optimizes the radiation cooling process so that the power generator can more efficiently get rid of excess heat.
After analyzing these simulated improvements, the team found that their design was capable of generating 2.2 watts of power per square meter (2 W / m2), which is 120 times more power than previous experimental models have been capable of. to achieve, the authors write.
The authors also that a system like this could even be used during the day, creating an overlay of energy production with traditional solar panels.
That being said, there is a difference between the simulated results and how this system might actually work.
However, the authors argue that this design demonstrates that the system is theoretically achievable using commercially available technology – we don’t have to wait for new materials or innovations. In the future, this off-grid solution could be used to supply sustainable energy and power essential services.
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