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Researchers Improve 'Anti-Solar' Energy Production

FILE - Solar panels are used to produce renewable energy at the photovoltaic park in Les Mees, in the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France, March 31, 2015.

A new study suggests researchers have developed a method to significantly improve “anti-solar” panels - a new clean, sustainable way to generate energy at night.

“Anti-solar” panels work by being cooler than heat radiated by the Earth at night, gathering that heat and converting it into electricity using a thermoelectric generator.

Developers of the anti-solar panels say they can generate about a quarter of the electricity as solar panels. But authors of a new study published Monday in the journal Optics Express say they have developed a method that, in simulations, has improved energy generation in these anti-solar panels by as much as 120%.

The team of researchers from Stanford University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology said they achieved their results by improving the thermoelectric generator. They used a more efficient material to allow the generator to more efficiently dump excess heat.

The researchers say that after they analyzed these upgrades, their redesign of the anti-solar generator was able to produce 2.2 watts of energy per square meter – 120 times the energy produced by previous anti-solar models.

The researchers are quick to point out there is a difference between simulations and an actual physical system. But they also say their design uses technology and materials that are currently available. Their design works well enough to, theoretically, convert heat for energy from other sources, such as running cars, and could be used during the day.

They suggest this design might fill the gaps from other sustainable sources and provide reliable energy in remote and underdeveloped areas.