For years and years the biggest argument by solar energy skeptics was that the sun does not shine every day and it certainly does not shine at night. That meant the energy that was produced by solar power had to be stored to overcome these dead periods and sadly storage battery capability was not yet up to the task. These days all of that is changing. There have been huge advances in solar battery storage capability. Experts believe that solar battery improvements and new solar technologies will lead a renewed push for the major use of solar energy. 

There is another reason to be optimistic too. A university in China has announced that they have had some success with a new technology that will let them harness some energy from raindrops that fall on specially modified solar collectors.  

Soochow University’s Discovery 

Soochow University which is located in Suzhou, China outside of Shanghai is the school which made this somewhat historic discovery. They were able to actually produce electricity from droplets of rain that had collected on the solar panels and then subsequently rolled off. The potential of this new technology for the advancement of solar generated energy is off the charts. Of course that depends on whether it can be made economically feasible to be used on a large scale. 

Why is this a hugely significant breakthrough for solar generated power if it can be made to work? Just imagine the possibilities of being able to generate solar power on a rainy day or even better yet during a rainy night. This would lesson dependence on solar generated power collecting batteries by bridging the gap between the dead periods when the sun is not shining and no solar energy can be produced. 

This technology if it works would allow for the first time ever solar cell generated energy to be produced over an entire 24 hour period. Of course there would have to be sun during the day and a steady rain during the night for this to happen.  

How Does A Rain Drop Solar Collector Work? 

Well of course for a groundbreaking technology the folks at Soochow University did not want to give too many of their secrets away. But they did offer a general explanation of how this new technology is made possible. This technology also does not work quite like you may think. It has as much to do with harnessing static electricity as it does generating power from solar cells. 

The researches at Soochow University basically took a standard solar photovoltaic (PV) solar cell and slightly modified it. The modification that took place was done by adding two very thin layers of polymer material over the solar cell. When a raindrop falls on this newly designed solar collector and rolls off, it subsequently generates static electricity which can then be collected much the same way that the solar generated energy is collected by a solar cell. The layers of polymer material serve as the necessary electrode for both solar energy and static energy production. 

The thinking behind this technology itself is not groundbreaking. As a matter of fact, it already has a name; it’s called ‘triboelectric nanogeneratoin’ (called Tengs for short). The part that is groundbreaking as far as the Soochow University solar panel research goes is that by adding thin layers of polymer material to the solar panel they were able to keep the solar panels lightweight and more cost effective. 

What’s Next with This Technology? 

The possibilities with this new type of hybrid solar/static electric generating technology are endless. This is especially true if those doing the research can modify it into a smaller and more flexible form as predicted. They then would be able to do such things as make clothing that would generate enough electricity as you moved about to power cell phones and personal music listening devices.  

How soon do the researchers think they can have a viable working solar cell that uses this hybrid solar/static electricity producing technology? Reportedly it’s moving along much faster than many people expected. A spokesman for the Soochow University project, Baoquan Sun, said they fully expect to have a viable working model that uses the hybrid solar/static energy collection technology in as little as 3 to 5 years. 

The future of solar collection combined with other emerging energy collection technologies seems to be making round the clock electricity production more possible than ever. 

 

 

 

Source: 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/13/rain-or-shine-new-solar-cell-captures-energy-from-raindrops 

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