Though solar panels are one of the most renewable energy sources, it still doesn’t help much in snowy place for making solar energy. Hence, scientists have developed a new device to produce electricity from snow itself even if the solar panels are blanketed with snow.
A team from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has created a new device, which they call a snow based triboelectric nanogenerator, or Snow TENG. The device is aimed to produce electricity from snow itself where solar panels fail to work effectively.
The device works off the triboelectric effect. It uses static electricity for generating a charge through the exchange of electrons. Such devices have previously been used to make generators that pull energy from body movements, touchscreens and even footsteps on floors, reported New Atlas.
Since snow is positively charged, rubbing it against a material with the opposite charge allows energy to be drawn out of it. After a lot of testing, the scientists decided silicone to be the most effective material for this process.
The 3D-printable Snow TENG was made up of a layer of silicone attached to an electrode. According to the researchers, the device could be integrated into solar panels so that they can continue generating electricity even when they are buried under layers of snow.
“The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries,” said Richard Kaner, senior author of the study. “It’s a very clever device — a weather station that can tell you how much snow is falling, the direction the snow is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind.”
However, Snow TENG also has some cons. Currently, it produces a really tiny amount of electricity, having a power density of 0.2mW per square meter, which means it cannot be hooked up a grid like a solar panel, but could make for small and self-powered weather sensors.