Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chinese Scientists Devise New Solar Cells that make Energy Even on a Rainy Day

A cloudy day spells bad news for solar energy farms because it means a drastic dip in power production. But that’s about to change thanks to an innovative development reported by a team of scientists in China. The novel solar panel technology can harness energy from raindrops and convert it into electric power. And when it’s not overcast or raining, these solar panels function on solar energy, just like conventional solar panels do.

The workings of these innovative solar cells are described in detail in the scientific journal, Angewandte Chemie. According to the team of scientists from the Ocean University, China, and the Yunnan Normal University, the design of the new solar cells could act as a savior even when enough sunshine is not available. This could give a strong push to efforts to resolve the global energy crisis. According to the scientists who worked on the project, the all-weather solar cells feature a combination of a graphene electrode enriched with electronics and a dry-sensitized solar cell. Incident light on a sunny day excites the solar cells (as is the case with any regular solar cell) and on a rainy day, raindrops have the same effect of exciting the solar cells.

How does rainfall help the all-weather solar cells produce energy?

The solar cells work on a simple technique: The cells are coated with a very thin layer of conductive graphene. Rain naturally contains some amount of salt, which separates into ions. When the natural water comes into contact with the highly conductive graphene, it clings to the graphene thereby turning into a dual-layer pseudo capacitor. The strong energy difference between the two layers helps generate electricity.

A dye-sensitized solar cell makes use of an organic dye to absorb sunlight. It uses sunlight to produce electrons, and subsequently, energy. Their thin form factor makes dye-sensitized solar cells ideal for a myriad of applications.

If successfully commercialized, there are limitless applications that this new technology could present. For one, they could form the foundation of a more advanced technology for all-weather solar cells. The scientists also opine that this would allow solar farms to come up in geographical regions where sunlight is scarce but rainfall is abundant.

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