|A new nanogenerator could harvest energy directly from snow, helping solar panels deal with wintry conditions(Credit: karin59 /Depositphotos)|
Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Tech, Nanotechnology
Snowy places aren't ideal for harvesting solar energy – panels can't do much if they're buried under blankets of snow, of course. Now a team from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a new device that can produce electricity from snow itself.
The team calls the new device a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or Snow TENG. As the name suggests it works off the triboelectric effect, meaning it uses static electricity to generate a charge through the exchange of electrons. These kinds of devices have been used to make generators that pull energy from body movements, touchscreens, and even footsteps on floors.
Snow is positively charged, so rubbing it against a material with the opposite charge allows energy to be drawn out of it. After a comprehensive series of testing, the team settled on silicone as the most effective material.
The Snow TENG, which is 3D printable, is made with a layer of silicone attached to an electrode. The team says it could be integrated into solar panels, so they can continue generating electricity even when covered with snow, making it similar to an earlier hybrid solar cell that also harvested energy from the movement of raindrops on its surface.
Snow-powered nanogenerator works where solar panels don't
Michael Irving, New Atlas