A team of Chinese engineers have created a new hybrid solar panel that can also harvest energy from raindrops.
This new technology takes advantage of the triboelectric effect, wherein certain materials exhibit an electrical charge after coming into contact with a different material. The key part of the system is a triboelectric nanogenerator, a device that creates an electric friction charge of rubbing the two materials together.
The triboelectric nanogenerator generate this charge by friction and can be used to collect static electricity from clothing, vehicle wheels, or touch screens. In this case, it is the rolling motion of raindrops across a solar panel.
To create a nanogenerator, the team added two transparent polymer layers on top of their solar panel. To increase the nanogenerator’s efficiency, the polymer layers were imprinted with grooves modeled on the data side pattern of DVDs. When raindrops fall, they push the top layer into contact with the lower layer, which then acts as an electrode between the TENG and the solar panel.
Although the resulting electricity produced by this panel is relatively small, it nonetheless proves that such a device works and could be scaled up with further research. The article is originally written by Inhabitat.