Solar panels that work in the rain
Chinese researchers have recently developed a solution enabling photovoltaic panels to produce energy even in the rain and without any sunlight!
Photovoltaics are the main source of green energy, but they remain highly dependent on the whims of their worst enemy: the weather! That is until Chinese scientists from Suzhou University unveiled their new invention which combines an ordinary solar cell with a triboelectric nano-generator (TENG), a system that produces electricity by exploiting the friction between two materials. The TENG can draw energy from anywhere, provided there is friction. In this case, the aim is to re-use the energy of the water droplets running over the solar panel’s surface.
To achieve this, they placed two layers of polymer over a photovoltaic cell. One of the layers is striated to improve its ability to collect energy and serves as a shared electrode for the TENG and the solar panel by conducting the energy between those two interfaces. The other, transparent layer lets a good deal of the sunlight through, although the light received is ultimately diminished.
Although this technology does not constitute a discovery, the scientists had not yet found a way to exploit it without creating complex or bulky systems.
Given that the system is so simple, they claim that it is simply a new way of producing energy in varied weather conditions. The next step will involve increasing the yield of these hybrid panels.