A Novel Solar-Powered Device Can Generate Electricity from Shadows

The invention may one day solve the problem of intermittency.
Loukia Papadopoulos

We have all heard of the problem of solar power: it's intermittency. What happens when the sun does not shine? Now, researchers may have come up with a new solution for that.

It's a device dubbed the “shadow-effect energy generator" and it can generate electricity even when part of it is in the dark. 


 "We can harvest energy anywhere on Earth, not just open spaces,” said to ScienceNews Swee Ching Tan, a materials scientist at the National University of Singapore.

Tan and his team created the device by placing a superthin coating of gold on silicon. Just like in solar cells, light brimming on silicon energizes its electrons. Only this time, with the gold layer, the shadow-effect energy generator produces an electric current in the part of the device that lies in shadow.

The excited electrons then jump from the silicon to the gold generating power twice as effective as conventional solar cells. The team has already successfully ran an electronic watch in low light and used the drive as a sensor.

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In this case, opposites are in the system's favor. The greater the contrast between the light and the dark, the more energy the generator can produce. The team is now working to boost the device’s performance by using strategies from solar cells. Increasing the light these inventions absorb would allow them to make better use of shadows.

“A lot of people think that shadows are useless,” Tan added. But “anything can be useful, even shadows.”

Although it's still too early to tell if the project can ever be used as a full-scale solar panel, it does provide an interesting look in the use of shadow and darkness in generating electricity. Only time and research will show what this invention's true potential will be.

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