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New Solar Panels Keep Buildings Cool In Direct Sunlight

Illustration for article titled New Solar Panels Keep Buildings Cool In Direct Sunlight

Someday your home might be nice and cool in the middle of July without air conditioning. How? Some Stanford researchers have created a solar panel that cools buildings in direct sunlight.

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To achieve this goal, a panel has to reflect (rather than absorb) as much sunlight as possible, as well as radiate heat back into the building. Stanford's invention does both:

It is an effective broadband mirror for solar light—it reflects most of the sunlight. It also emits thermal radiation very efficiently within the crucial wavelength range needed to escape Earth's atmosphere.

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The panels are a combination of both a thermal emitter and a solar reflector. And the team of researchers is the first to achieve this type of sustainable cooling during daytime hours by engineering nanostructured photonic materials—forms of light radiation—to either enhance or suppress light at different wavelengths. The result? A device that can cool 100 watts per square meter. In practical terms, that means you could have 10 percent of your roof covered with solar panels, but they would offset about 35 percent of the AC you'd need during the most sweltering days of summer. Which sounds sounds pretty cool to us. [Stanford News]

Image credit: Shutterstock/Style_TTT

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DISCUSSION

I'd rather see them work on the efficiency of current panels and increase the spectrums the solar panels can pull energy from instead of reflecting said energy away from the building. I know they are working on this, and I suppose attacking from two different fronts is a good thing. Living in the "sunshine state", I would love to be able to suck as much electricity from the sun as I can. Honestly, I can't figure out why we aren't working to push CSP (Concentrated Solar Power), for areas. I do believe that the Nevada Desert could provide electricity for all of North America (using high volage DC power lines to distribute over long distances, which have less loss than AC lines and convert to AC a distrobution stations).

As someone else said in the comments as well, you have to be careful where you "reflect" that light to. You could cause huge issue.