If cloudy days that threatened rain posed one of the biggest challenges to solar energy harvesting technology so far, a Chinese scientific team may have put an end to this problem. To do this, it has developed a new hybrid solar cell that not only captures energy from the sun, but also from raindrops.
From making the leap from the laboratory to the commercial phase, the innovation signed by the Chinese University of Soochow would represent a considerable advance by providing greater stability to the generation of electricity through solar panels. For this, the first step has been to give a new thought to triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), which make it possible, precisely, for the mechanical energy of the raindrops to be converted into electricity.
Although it had previously tried to integrate the TENGs and solar cells, the truth is that the proposal that comes from the Asian giant surpasses any previous approach. And it is that, if until now the systems created to harness the energy of both the sun and the rain were characterized by an extremely complicated production process and a very bulky final product, that of this group changes the paradigm.
The hybrid cell designed by these experts stands out for its simplicity and lightness. So much so that, according to one of the scientists who participated in the project, Zhen Wen, explains to Phys.org, one of his next achievements could be the integration of the device in clothing. “My wish is to make clothes that can generate electricity thanks to the sun and rain, to be used in portable electronic devices, ” says the expert.
Desire is also an ongoing attempt. Thus, while they are already advancing in the design of a system in the form of fiber, the hybrid they have created differs significantly from the rest, especially in one aspect. The silicon solar cell used is integrated with the TENGs through a mutual electrode located in the middle of the device, which conducts the energy from the nanogenerator to the cell. The advantages of the choice are many, as detailed in an article published in ACS Nano. The reduction of reflections, the greater protection of the solar cell, especially against water, and the improvement of power generation compared to previous attempts are some of the strengths of this idea. However, the simplicity of its design and its lightness stand out.
Despite getting the best of solar technology and TENGs, this technology that could be groundbreaking still has aspects to polish. Among them, as they point out from the team, the fact that it is not possible to take advantage of both possibilities at the same time. “If it rained and sunny at the same time, we would have to give up one of the functions of the hybrid generator , “ admit the experts. Due to the infrequency of these phenomena, this risk does not obscure the leap forward that this project may entail.