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New solar cell and the 2 nd Law

  1. Aug 13, 2008 #1

    The new solar cell in the link appears to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It extracts energy and cools in a uniform temperature environment according to how I understand the article. Can someone explain why it doesn't? (I have no idea.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2008 #2
    I am not so sure it does violate the second law. It should be noted that these are not actual solar cells but micro antennas which operate on different principles than typical photovoltaics. How they operate, I don't know but I do believe that the same rules do not apply.
  4. Aug 13, 2008 #3


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    Science Advisor

    I think this post (from the linked site) sums up the situation nicely.

  5. Aug 13, 2008 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    I would say the wording is just misleading. Here's what it actually says:
    All that says to me is that it is a good emissivity black-body at those frequencies and only "draws away" heat because it doesn't warm up much when exposed to ir (since it is dissipating the energy). It wouldn't cool anything below ambient.
  6. Aug 13, 2008 #5
    I greatly appreciate the responses and can see now that this article was way overhyped. Perhaps the most glaring example is the fifth paragraph:

    "The nanoantennas absorb a targeted wavelength range of mid-infrared rays. The Earth continuously emits these rays thanks to the solar energy that it absorbs during the day. This would allow for continuous solar panel operation, in theory. Traditional panels can only absorb visible light and thus are idle at night."

    This paragraph clearly implies a violation of the Second Law. It should never have passed review.
  7. Aug 13, 2008 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Heh - review? Really? These types of articles are only interesting to the general public because of the hype. Without the hype, there'd be no story to write.
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