Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found a way to extract energy from the presence of shadow. This could pave the way for the production of clean energy inside houses and offices. The device the researchers developed is called a shadow energy generator.

It looks a bit like a mini solar panel because the cells consist of thin films of gold and silicon wafers arranged on a plastic film. But instead of tapping into the sun’s energy, the generator uses the contrast in lighting created on its cells by shadow gutters. This contrast induces a voltage difference between shaded and illuminated parts of the device, resulting in an electric current.

Research team leader Tan Swee Ching of NUS’ Department of Materials Science and Engineering stated in the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science that the four-cell generator used by his team is twice as efficient as conventional solar technology cells when exposed to the effect of shifting shadows. This makes the generator attractive for low-light applications, such as in an indoor environment. Since it costs 10 times less to produce than current solar panels, the device can be easily scaled and commercialized. In the long run, this could lead to enormous energy savings and a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. Currently, the device is targeted at applications within homes, where it could power smaller electronics such as phones and other digital gadgets, but more research could open up higher efficiencies and enable large-scale long-term outdoor applications”.

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