We are well familiar with solar panels that only generate electrical energy from the sun but new developments in technology have brought about other fascinating options of energy sources for these panels. Technology has created solar panels that can work in the rain (rain panels) and the dark without sunlight.
The major demerit of traditional solar panels is their ability to only generate power from sunlight. This decreases their reliability as they cannot function at night when it is dark or on rainy days when it is cloudy. This brought about the search among scientists for ways to solve the problem. Researchers’ attempts to generate power from the rain had seemed complex and impossible, but a new invention has been discovered that works.
An application where water is used in power generation is already being practised and can be seen in hydroelectric dams. However, this new invention enables solar panels to capture, reserve and generate energy from raindrops.
The demonstration of a device in a lab at Soochow University, China showed two transparent polymer layers placed on a solar photovoltaic cell. The friction generated when rain falls on these layers and rolls off of it releases a static electricity charge. Using a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), the amount of electricity produced by the falling raindrop is collected which is usually extremely small.
The process of integrating a series of solar cells in a single circuit to give a full panel of cells capable of collecting a more immense amount of energy together which is utilized in solar panels cannot work for individual raindrop power collection cells. This is due to “coupling capacitance” which happens between the lower and upper cell electrodes, resulting in a huge power loss between the cells.
A solution has finally been found for this problem using a newly developed type of TENG called D-TENG, which remarkably decreases the coupling capacitance experienced in the initial regular TENG. This improvement has shown light to the possibility of actually generating energy from falling raindrops, but its reliability compared to regular solar panels cannot yet be completely ascertained.
Hybrid solar panels
Like the name ‘hybrid’, they are solar panels that produce electrical energy from both the sun and the rain, also known as an all-weather solar panel. They are installed on rooftops to capture energy from the sun during the day and also have the capacity of generating energy when rain falls through the force exerted by the raindrops on the panels.
Hybrid solar panels can generate power from rain on rainy days with the help of a Triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) which converts the rain into electricity. The power generated is not usually as efficient as the traditional solar cells. This invention enables green energy to now be enjoyed by people restricted from solar panels due to poor weather conditions.
Drawbacks from previous hybrid solar panel designs included the fusion of insulations between the triboelectric nanogenerator at the top and the solar cells at the bottom. This resulted in the blockage of maximum sunlight from reaching the solar cells thereby not achieving the goal of an all-weather solar panel.
The hybrid solar panels from Soochow University resolved this by using the same electrode for the solar cells and nanogenerators, thereby achieving a thinner model which is more effective in the sun and rain. They are not currently available for use to the public as more research and modifications to increase efficiency from sun and rain are still ongoing but there are high hopes for this technology soon.
Benefits of these hybrid solar panels – rain panels
The population living in areas with more sun than rain has been less privileged in the use of renewable energy for electricity. Hybrid solar panels will enable anyone in any area of the world to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy sources. These solar panels can work in the rain and at night due to nighttime rain.
Hybrid solar panels will be made available for every household thereby reducing the use of nonrenewable energy resources for electricity. People also get to save up to thousands a year used for paying power utility bills as they will be able to generate their electricity in their homes and businesses.