Scientists at the Ocean University of China and Yunnan Normal University have developed a working model of a solar panel that can harness energy from rain – as well as sunlight.
This breakthrough means that the future of solar power isn't just limited to places where the sun is bright and the days are long. With further research the technology could be available for people all over the world, especially in very rainy climates such as the UK.
Professor Qunwei Tang of the Ocean University of China said:
“We would like to create a solar cell that can produce electricity on both sunny and rainy days […] We believe the all-weather solar cell will be used for families in the future.”
This development in finding and managing viable renewable energy sources means that a greener future for Britain’s homes may not be too far away.
How does it work?
When rainwater hits the surface of the graphene solar panel, the salts in the water separate into positive and negative ions. The positive ions stick to the graphene and form a layer with negatively charged electrons – making what is known as a ‘pseudocapacitor’ – and the difference between the positive and negative charges produces an electric current.
An experiment carried out by the team used a substitute for rain water to mimic the effects of the impurities found in real droplets, achieving an efficiency rate of 6.53%. While many of the leading solar cells have a solar-to-electric conversion efficiency of around 20%, the research is hopefully a sign of future developments that will eventually allow solar panels to be effective under all weather conditions.
Find out more about how the solar panels would work in the A Solar Cell That Is Triggered by Sun and Rain paper, published in the Angewandte Chemie journal.
What can I do?
While the future of renewable energy looks promising, you can start doing your bit for the planet now by making sure your energy usage is efficient. You can also prepare for home emergencies with boiler cover.