stanford university, solar power, nighttime solar power
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Solar panels at sundown.

The biggest drawback of solar power is that panels generate very little power on cloudy days and zero at night. People with residential solar systems usually have a setup that generates more electricity than they use during the day, so they can live off the power company or a battery at night.

The monetary savings come from generating more power during the day than you take from the grid at night over the course of the year.

This arrangement is fine for people who live in developed areas. But for the 750 million people around the world who live in areas without an electrical grid, solar panels aren’t a reliable power source and battery storage is expensive.

A new development from Stanford University may be a big help to people living in underdeveloped areas that are completely off the grid. The university researchers created a solar panel that generates a significant amout of power during the day and a small amount at night.

According to the study published earlier this month in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the new panels can serve as a "continuous renewable power source for both day and nighttime.”


The new panels are pretty easy to make, too.

“What we managed to do here is build the whole thing from off-the-shelf components, have a very good thermal contact, and the most expensive thing in the whole setup was the thermoelectric itself,” Zunaid Omair, a metrology engineer from Stanford University and one of the study’s authors, said.

The solar panels function like a traditional panel during the day but run in reverse to continue generating electricity at night. After the sun goes down, the panels are able to generate electricity off the difference in temperature between the ambient air and the solar panel's surface.

(Or for you physicists out there, it works by tapping into the heat being radiated from the surface of the solar cells as infrared light into outer space.)

A big drawback is that the panels aren’t very effective on cloudy nights.

When pointed at the night sky, the solar panels generated a power output of 50 milliwatts per square meter or about 0.04% of the power output of a traditional solar cell during the daytime. This is enough power to run a low-wattage LED light or to charge a cell phone.

via Matthew Stevens/Flickr

“The nice aspect about this approach is that you essentially have a direct power source at night that does not require any battery storage,” Shanhui Fan, a professor at Stanford’s School of Engineering, said according to New Scientist.

Battery storage for solar power can be unreliable and expensive, so these new panels can be a big benefit to people in areas that are without a traditional power grid. "Our approach can provide nighttime standby lighting and power in off-grid and mini-grid applications, where [solar] cell installations are gaining popularity," the study said.

The ability to run an LED light or a phone charger in the middle of the night may not seem like a game-changer to most people in the developed world, but it can make a huge difference in the quality of life for people living in remote areas of the planet. Further, this is just the beginning. Traditional solar panels have come a long way over the past few decades. Who knows what the future holds for this promising new technology?

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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