Most people who are interested in renewable technology know about solar cells and how much benefits they offer to users. The newest innovation in the field of electricity generation from renewable sources doesn’t even use the sun, however. Scientists led by a team from UCLA explored a phenomenon known as radiative sky cooling. They found that the aspect could be used to generate small amounts of electricity with conventional materials.
The methodology was outlined in a paper published in the journal Joule. The device was used to power a single LED bulb. While not impressive by its output, this success serves as a proof of concept of the principle. The device included an aluminum disk which was painted black on one side, and then set facing the sky. The disk radiated heat from the surrounding air and used that heat to generate electricity using a thermoelectric generator. The total cost of the equipment used to put the entire device together came in at an affordable $30.
What is Radiative Sky Cooling?
The setup and the generated electricity might sound like magic, but it’s actually the application of a scientific principle that many informed people know of. The primary explanation is that sky-facing objects tend to radiate heat from the area around them up into the atmosphere. This phenomenon happens all the time, especially on cold, clear nights. The object (in this case the aluminum disk) ejecting the heat is likely to be a lot cooler than the surrounding areas.
Not the First Use of the Innovation
While the principle itself isn’t new, it has commercial application predating this particular instance. Recently, a business named SkyCool built a system for naturally inducing cooling within a building through the same principle of radiative sky cooling. The exciting part about this technology is that it enables even the most disconnected and isolated locations to have access to electricity, just by utilizing an existing natural phenomenon. The use of affordable parts to make the system work is simply a bonus to users.