Generating Electricity, Come Rain Or Come Shine

Researchers have developed a solar cell that can produce energy from sunlight as well as from the motion of raindrops hitting and sliding off its surface.

AsianScientist (Mar. 19, 2018) – In a study published in ACS Nano, scientists in China have developed hybrid solar cells that can generate energy not only from sunlight, but also from the motion of raindrops.

Despite the numerous advances in solar cells, cloudy, rainy conditions put a damper on the amount of electricity produced. To allow solar cells to generate electricity regardless of the weather, researchers at Soochow University, China, have added a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) to an existing solar cell. What the TENG does is allow the solar cell to convert the motion of raindrops into electrical energy.

Led by Professor Sun Baoquan, the researchers at Soochow University imprinted two polymers—polydimethylsiloxane and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate), abbreviated as PDMS and PEDOT:PSS respectively—on a grooved surface.

The researchers found that by adding texture to the PDMS, the TENG performance of the solar cell when raindrops touched and fell off its surface improved. The textured PEDOT:PSS layer acted as a mutual electrode for both the TENG and the solar cell. It was placed between the two devices and conducted energy from the TENG to the cell.

Because the polymers are transparent, the solar cell could still generate energy from sunlight. The team noted that this simple design demonstrates a new concept in energy harvesting during various weather conditions.

The article can be found at: Liu et al. (2018) Integrating a Silicon Solar Cell with a Triboelectric Nanogenerator via a Mutual Electrode for Harvesting Energy from Sunlight and Raindrops.


Source: American Chemical Society;; Photo: Shutterstock.
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