No matter how much our technology progresses, our solar panels continue to be useless when it’s raining, but everything may be about to change, thanks to a new hybrid panel that can generate electricity through the sun’s rays, but can also do so with the use of raindrops.
The key point of the new panels is the technology of the triboelectric nano-generator, known as TENG that can generate electrical energy through the simple friction between two materials, due to a energy similar to the static electricity generated between the panels.
TENG’s can take advantage of a variety of energy sources, even from the friction generated by a tire when a car is traveling on a road, or the movement of different materials that generate friction between them, and in this case the raindrops generate the necessary movement for energy to be generated.
The technology is the result of the work of a team of scientists from Soochow University in China that manage to create a cell that works whether it rains or the sun shines, and although the idea of this application is not entirely new, the development of a simple and low density technology was clearly a crucial step in enabling this new technology to be used efficiently in our homes.
Scientists have resorted to a system similar to the one used in the recording of DVD’s that we use in our homes to create small grooves in the polymers that compose the two layers of the innovative system of energy production through rain, thus allowing due to their low complexity and density, to apply it over the solar panel we already know.
In the tests performed the two layers acted as a mutual electrode between the TENG and the solar panel, serving as transport between the two platforms, and since the upper layers are transparent, nothing prevents the light to be captured by the panel, reducing only the absorption efficiency by the latter panel.
The next step will be to increase the amount of electricity generated in order to make this type of panel commercially viable, although the more complex part of the concept is clearly proven, and generating some energy during the rain periods is much better than simply not being able to generate any.
Although this is not yet the solution for the sunless days, it will clearly be a major and important step towards the definitive solution to this renewable and cost-effective energy system, and another very important point is that rain can occur 24 hours per day, unlike sunlight that is only present for a limited number of hours.