In a potentially game-changing breakthrough in energy harvesting, researchers have found a way to capture, store and utilize the electrical power generated by falling raindrops, which may lead to the development of rooftop, power-generating rain panels.
Previous attempts to generate power from falling rain have run into specific technical hurdles that often seemed impossible to surpass, but the researchers behind this new method say they have found a solution that may finally make such rain panels as popular, if not more so, than solar panels.
Rain Panels Suffer From Technical Limitations
Engineers have long known about the potential power generation capabilities of fallen raindrops. The idea is already in practical applications like hydroelectric dams and wave power collection systems, where the movement of the water generates electricity.
However, the efforts to collect energy from falling raindrops have faced a technical hurdle that has made the concept inefficient and impractical. By using something called a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), engineers can collect the tiny but measurable amount of electricity generated by a falling raindrop, but as one might expect, the amount of power per raindrop is incredibly small.
In technologies like solar panels (or even the “nighttime anti-solar panels” The Debrief previously covered), a similar problem is overcome by combining a series of individual solar cells in a single circuit, resulting in a full panel of cells that can collect a larger amount of energy together. Unfortunately, this simply doesn’t work for individual raindrop power collection cells due to a phenomenon called “coupling capacitance” that occurs between the upper and lower electrodes of each cell. As a result, power loss is too great from cell to cell, making the idea of building a full-blown rain panel seemingly impossible.
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