Researchers Create a Device Collecting Energy From Sunlight & Raindrops

Saturday, March 10, 2018 - 11:08

Researchers, Yuqiang Liu et al., at Soochow University in China, have designed a device that harvests solar energy in sunny conditions and the mechanical energy of falling raindrops in rainy conditions.

The hybrid device consists of a conventional silicon solar cell and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), which converts the mechanical energy of falling raindrops into electricity, phys.org reports.

Although previous research has shown that these two types of devices can be connected with an extra wire, in the new design the solar cell and TENG are integrated by sharing a mutual electrode.

"The biggest breakthrough in this work is that an integrated generator composed of a solar cell and a TENG was demonstrated through sharing a mutual electrode," coauthor Zhen Wen at Soochow University told Phys.org. "Compared to previous work, the simple design of the mutual electrode reduces the number of functional layers, which greatly improves the output efficiency."

The shared electrode not only results in a more compact design, but it also offers advantages to both the solar cell and TENG. In particular, the TENG protects the solar cell by acting as a waterproof barrier and prevents water from penetrating the silicon. The textured electrode surface also greatly suppresses unwanted reflection of light, enhancing light harvesting. Further, the textured surface results in a greater contact area between the TENG and falling rain drops, which improves the overall performance of the nanogenerator.

This research has been published on the hybrid device in a recent issue of ACS Nano. In the future, the researchers plan to explore integrating the hybrid device into electronic clothing.

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