It sounds so fictional right? But it isn't, This mind blowing concept could help in the transformation of how renewable energy is generated indoors.
The Device is being called the Shadow-Effect Energy Generator (SEG). And even though it sounds like it was gotten from a sci-fi movie, it is mind blowing when you imagine how this device could change the world today and tomorrow.
The device makes use of the contrast between darkness and light to create electricity. It is constructed from series of thin strips of gold film on a silicon wafer, mounted on top of a flexible plastic base.
Despite the fact that shadows are most often an issue when it comes to renewable solar energy production, the scientists, in this case, have actually utilized it to keep on generating power. And according to the them, the device can produce little amounts of power and could also be used in mobile gadgets, for example. 'Which is fascinating right?. Imagine you never had to plug your phone again, because you can instead, charge it with a shadow. I mean that would be very cool.' 😱 Another interesting thing they mentioned is that the device is cheap to make compared to a solar cell.
Tan Swee Ching, a materials scientist from the National University of Singapore (NUS) had this to say:
"Shadows are omnipresent, and we often take them for granted. In conventional photovoltaic or optoelectronic applications where a steady source of light is used to power devices, the presence of shadows is undesirable, since it degrades the performance of devices. In this work, we capitalised on the illumination contrast caused by shadows as an indirect source of power. The contrast in illumination induces a voltage difference between the shadow and illuminated sections, resulting in an electric current. This novel concept of harvesting energy in the presence of shadows is unprecedented."
in other words, it's that contrast between shadow and light that really makes the SEG device effective: the developers of the device found that while under shifting shadows, the Shadow-Effect Energy Generator is twice as effective as conventional solar cells under the same conditions.They also discovered that when the SEG is completely in shadow, or fully in the light (when the voltages across the strips are all similar), it generates a very low amount of electricity, or even nothing at all.
The team demonstrated that with passing shadows caused by clouds or waving tree branches in the environment, or simply the movement of the Sun, the device is able to generate enough power (1.2 V to be precise) to run a digital watch. And that could also well be boosted in coming future.
"We also found that the optimum surface area for electricity generation is when half of the SEG cell is illuminated and the other half in shadow, as this gives enough area for charge generation and collection respectively," says Andrew Wee, a physicist from NUS.
The device also doubles up as a sensor: it can log shadows passing over it to record the movement of objects passing by. And when you think of it, that could actually have variety of applications in connected smart home devices and it could even be used to create self-powered sensors. There's still a lot of work needed to be done on the device, however, the researchers are currently trying to bring down the cost of the SEG, probably by replacing the gold film with a different material.
With all things said and done, if we take a look at the future, the more methods we have of generating renewable electricity, the more imaginative we can get with our gadgets, and the less we need to rely on fossil fuel for energy production. Shadows, which a lot has taken for granted, can now be added to the list of alternative energy sources, alongside snowfall and the cold of outer space. Fascinating right? Who ever saw this coming.
"With its cost-efficiency, simplicity and stability, our SEG offers a promising architecture to generate green energy from ambient conditions to power electronics, and as a part of a smart sensor systems, especially in buildings," the researchers wrote in their published paper.