New type of solar cells could even work at night

Researchers in the potato state of Idaho say that they’ve developed a new kind of solar cell that can produce electricity even at night, promising to create a new form of renewable energy.

The critical factor is their ability to gather infrared radiation and visible light, Steven Novack at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls said to UPI.


About half of the available energy in the spectrum of solar radiation is in the infrared band, and infrared is re-emitted as heat by planet Earth’s surface after the sun has gone down, which means the cells can capture an amount of energy during the night, he says.


Novack has estimated that a complete system using the new cells would have an efficiency of 46 percent; by comparison the most current efficient silicon solar cells max out at around 25 percent.


It is also important to note that current solar cells can only produce at their top output in a small range of conditions. For example, if the sun is in the wrong place, sunlight is reflected off a silicon solar cell instead of being absorbed to generate energy.


The new solar cells can absorb radiation at a multitude of angles, the researchers say.