Solar panels are often referred as a solution to our dependence on fossil fuels. But with developments of solar energy and its constant reliance on sunshine, not all countries can enjoy full advantage of technology. Places such as the United Kingdom where rainfall can stay for months at a time, solar cells do not seem to be the best choice for producing energy. The cloudy skies prevent the sun rays from reaching the cells. Over the time, researchers have been striving to find the desired solution for such areas that repeatedly face rainfall. Now a team of Chinese engineers developed a hybrid solar cell that can produce electricity from both sunlight and raindrops.
Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) create a charge from the friction of two materials rubbing together which you will recognize as static electricity. TENGs can draw power from the car tyres, clothing materials rubbing against each other and as in this case the rolling motion of raindrops across a solar panel. The study has been published by the researchers in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano. The result of such collaboration has been discovered by scientists from Soochow University in China. They wrote in their published paper, “Our studies demonstrate a new concept in [the] utilisation of energy during various weather conditions.” The device consists of a conventional silicon solar cell that converts the mechanical energy of falling raindrops into electricity.
Reports shared in the year 2016 reveals that the idea of using TENGs is not completely new and the Chinese scientists from the Ocean University managed to generate electricity from raindrops coated in a layer of graphene. The challenge has been to develop a system that was not too complex. And the concept guided the design of advanced all-weather solar cells. One of the researchers was quoted at Phys.org saying, “Compared to previous work, the simple design of the mutual electrode reduces the number of functional layers, which greatly improves the outfit efficiency.” It is undeniably a great invention, adding a huge boost to the potential of solar cells.