Snow solar panel. Image: Daniel Schweinert Shutterstock

Solar panels are increasing their efficiency day by day. Now, scientists have created a nanogenerator to be able to generate electricity even if they are covered in snow.

When you have a photovoltaic system, you may have some difficulty with snow. A group of researchers took these circumstances into account to create a device allowing the energy production from snow.

Snow TENG.

It is a triboelectric nanogenerator that sits on snow. Uses static electricity to generate a charge across the electron exchange.

Snow has a positive charge and releases electrons, so it is able to generate energy. The device is negatively charged and has the ability to actively capture positive electrons. Then it collects these charges and converts them into electricity.

It is designed to be integrated into solar panels, so that they generate electricity even when covered in snow. It works great in remote areas.

The prototype was designed by a international group, which includes professionals from the United States, Egypt, Canada and Ireland. To make this nanogenerator, they had to test many materials.

At first they experimented with foil and Teflon until they tried the silicone. They switched to the latter material when they saw that it produced more charge than any other.

The device was manufactured in a 3D printer, then an electrode and silicone were added, so it is very economical.

The problem you are currently facing is related to the low capacity to generate electricity in its current form; only produces 0.2 mW per square meter and an open circuit voltage of up to 8 V.

With its characteristics, it could be used as a small self-powered sensor. In fact, sensors are already being used on the bottom of boots or skis to collect data in winter sports.

The Snow TENG can have several functions, of which the following are remarkable:

  • Monitoring of activities such as jumping, walking, running, when added to the sole of the shoes.
  • Calculate the average snowfall.
  • Control the snowfall speed.
  • Control the accumulation depth.
  • Check the wind direction.
  • Monitor the speed of snowy places or with ice.

More information: newsroom.ucla.edu