Before looking into the possibility of solar panels working during the night let us cultivate an understanding of how solar panels generate solar power under normal circumstances. The solar panels generate power when they come into contact with sunlight. The panels trap and convert solar energy into a direct electrical current which is converted to alternate electrical current for use by home appliance. Solar panels also absorb sunlight to heat water, homes and power the lighting system.
The solar panel is made up of photovoltaic cells also known as solar cells. The solar cells are made of silicon which is a semiconductor material. Upon coming into contact with the sunlight the cells release electrons and the released electrons move to the positively charged side of the panel by use of boron. This movement is the one that causes electrical current which is later turned into voltage. Solar panels come in different types and sizes depending on the technologies and materials used to make them up.
From the above explanation it is clear that solar panel can only generate solar power during the day. Its capability of generating power diminishes as the sunlight disappears during the night and also during cloudy weather. One way of making sure solar power is available even during the night is to preserve it using rechargeable battery. This is done by connecting the solar panel with the rechargeable battery which in turn is connected to the appliances intended to be powered. It is especially suitable for small scale users such as home owners. Solar based outdoor lighting is such one example of how solar energy can be stored for use long after the sun has disappeared.
A standard solar panel have 40 % efficiency meaning it is only able to harness and convert into power 40% of the solar energy it comes into contact with. The efficiency is further reduced during transmission and conversion of the solar power. The rate of solar energy absorption depends on the factors such as weather condition, panel location and position and so on. Due to this inefficiency experts have developed a solar panel with 80% efficiency and with an ability to harness solar energy even during the night.
The earth absorbs the infrared energy during the day and releases it during the night. This is what keeps the atmosphere warm long after the sunlight is gone. The new solar panel uses the same principle to harness solar energy during the night. Nano antennas are the square spirals of conducting metals embedded on a foldable sheet of plastic. The Nano antenna size is 1/25th of the human hair diameter and it absorbs infrared energy released by the earth during the night and converts it to solar power just like the conventional solar panel would do during the day. This means that they work day and night therefore being more proficient.
Though this not entirely a new scientific principle application of Nano technology has enabled the antenna to be embedded on the flexible cheap material. This is an indication of the future innovations that will dramatically change the solar energy exploitation.