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Next Generation Technology: Generating Electricity from Space

This entry was posted in Energy Harvesting , Power generation and Energy Efficiency on June 21, 2019 by II-VI Marlow Industries

A recent experiment done by researchers from Stanford University in California tries to expand on the viability of adapting solar panel technology to create electricity and energy from the night sky. This study has been documented by Science Alert and offers unique perspectives on identifying another potential source of renewable power. Essentially, researchers were making photodiodes contained in the solar panels “work backwards” in an attempt to generate power from a cold source.

II-VI Marlow is on the frontline of creating and adopting renewable energy sources. They are  experts in generating electricity through thermoelectric technologies and supplies power generators for a variety of industrial and commercial applications.

In an effort to make a more sustainable world,  solar panels and farms are being more widely adopted and used for generating large amounts of electricity. One disadvantage, and as the name implies, solar technology requires sunlight and heat for generating electricity.  Unlocking the secrets of generating electricity from the night sky and space would help counteract this shortcoming allowing for 24 hours a day of energy conversions from earth’s atmosphere.

Comparison to solar generated technologies

Solar generated technologies are among the most reliable sources of renewable energy, they are low cost, have low emissions, and (generally) are easily accessible. There are two major types of solar energy, photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) - common knowledge is around PV as it is primarily used in solar panels. As with all forms of energy production, it has both its advantages and disadvantages.

A major shortcoming is the limitation to convert solar energy when the sun isn’t shining, like at nighttime or during changing weather patterns. Discovering the ability to generate electricity when the sun has set unlocks an incredible potential for creating a sustainable world.

Comparison with other heat-generated technologies

Solar thermoelectric generators (STEG), is a heat engine where electricity is converted by sunlight. It is considered a solar technology however, as it only generates from heat. Science Direct explains that STEG is created by three subsystems: solar absorbers, thermoelectric generators (TEG), and heat management systems.

STEG can be used any time of day, however, the electricity must be stored before sundown. If electricity is not properly stored, it will not be functional or accessible at night. Ultimately, it utilizes the storage from sunlight to create heat in order to work - this is a very effective method of creating electricity, but again, we are faced with shortcomings.

As a result of this study, researchers from Stanford University in California have proven that energy harvesting from the night sky is indeed possible. The challenge now is taking this concept and creating devices that have an energy output large enough to be impactful on consumer electricity requirements. Innovation and discoveries like this continues to put us in the right direction for creation a sustainable world powered by renewable energy sources.


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