A strange new device — think of it as a Bizarro World version of solar panels — is capable of generating electricity from darkness.
The gadget, dubbed a “shadow-effect energy generator,” is a solar cell-like material that generates an electrical current when part of it is in the light and the other part isn’t, Science News reports. While the electric current from the proof-of-concept generators is weak for now, it hints at a future in which clean energy generation becomes far more ubiquitous and commonplace.
When only part of the generator is illuminated, electrons flow across a gold coating from light to dark areas. Capturing that flow, according to research published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, generates power twice as effectively as conventional solar cells blanketed by shade.
“We can harvest energy anywhere on Earth, not just open spaces,” National University of Singapore materials scientist Swee Ching Tan told Science News.
While these generators can’t solve the energy crisis yet, Science News suggested that it could be used to power wearables like smart watches, which can’t depend on steady or full sunlight.
“A lot of people think that shadows are useless,” Tan told Science News. “Anything can be useful, even shadows.”
READ MORE: A new device can produce electricity using shadows [Science News]