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New Device Invented to Generate Electricity from Cold and Dark Nights

The new device can produce enough electricity at night to power a small LED light by harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space.

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Updated:September 16, 2019, 5:33 PM IST
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New Device Invented to Generate Electricity from Cold and Dark Nights
Representative Image.

Given the deteriorating condition of the Earth, it becomes inevitable to look for environment-friendly ways to deal with the human requirement. Energy is one of the most important requirements of human living. While solar, wind and water-energy have already been in use, the scientists have now invented a new anti-solar panel, which harvests energy from the cold night sky. This technology makes it easier for cold countries to generate electricity and survive for days without sunlight.

The new prototype of the device can produce enough electricity at night to power a small LED light. This all is possible by harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space. However, a bigger version of this prototype can provide enough energy to light rooms, charge phones or power other electronics. These can be of use to remote or low-resource areas that lack electricity at night when solar panels don’t work.

A product has been worked out together by engineers at University of California and Stanford University. The study was published on Thursday, September 12, in Joule, describing how the invention can be made with $30 of materials found at hardware stores and hobby shops. Additionally, the technology is a modern twist on the previous techniques that has existed for nearly 200 years, called thermoelectric generators.

“What’s common in all of those examples is that they depend on a source of heat,” said Aaswath Raman, an engineer and materials scientist at UCLA who co-led the study, adding, “We kind of invert the problem. Instead of looking for a source of heat from which we can draw power, we’re instead taking advantage of a source of cold.”

He explained that when this device releases heat, it does so unevenly, the top side cooling more than the bottom. It then converts the difference in heat into electricity. The complete process has been described by Raman in the paper.

Jeffrey C. Grossman, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies passive cooling and solar technology, said the work was “quite exciting” and showed promise for the development of low-power applications at night. He said, “They have suggested reasonable paths for increasing the performance of their device. However, there is definitely a long way to go if they want to use it as an alternative to adding battery storage for solar cells.”

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