Photo: Aaswath Raman/UCLA

Researchers at UCLA have invented a new device that makes electricity at night by using the thermoelectric effect. Thermoelectricity is not a new concept, but this team of researchers have come up with an idea that could be immensely beneficial to the 1 billion people who currently do not have access to electricity, while also being a viable option in the renewable energy market. Thermoelectric devices are traditionally used to turn waste heat into energy in industrial settings.

This device takes the differences in air temperature and converts it into electricity. At night, heat radiates from the ground, eventually traveling up into the atmosphere in a process called radiative sky cooling. By capturing this heat, the team was able to generate enough electricity to power one LED light bulb. The generator was made of spare parts on the UCLA campus.

This technology could have enormous positive impact at all different scales. This technology on a large scale, is a potential solution to green energy production at night, one that could act as a counter balance to solar. On a small scale, this technology could bring electricity to different parts of the world, affordably, who currently don’t have it. This technology could also address battery storage concerns for the renewable energy market.

Written by Justin Stanphill