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New Graphene Solar Panels Can Generate Energy When it Rains.

Posted by Matthew Smith, Guest Columnist

Oct 28, 2016 8:26:30 AM

Solar panel innovation around the world.

solar panels that generate electricy from rain apexsolarsolutions.jpg

Solar is making huge strides in recent years, but how can we fully utilize solar panels in a way that provides incentive for capitalism to favor it? The answer should be pretty obvious, and if not then here’s why.

  • Make solar panels more efficient in dark environments
  • Harness the power of other elements during inclement weather
  • Create more aesthetically pleasing solar panels to make having solar panels “cool”

Researchers from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao have a simple solution to harness electricity from rain drops using a thin sheet of graphene. A solar panel is simply a photovoltaic cell that harnesses UV light, this UV light excites electrons therefore generates electricity. If you’ve paid attention over the last several years you probably have heard all the talk about the acid rain, maybe? In this case it could actually be highly useful to producing free energy from natural occurrences.

What is graphene and how can it apply to solar cells?

graphene.jpg

Simply put, graphene is the thinnest and lightest manmade material known to man. How many m’s where in that sentence? Recent improvements in manufacturing technologies are making this material more readily available to the public, it used to be quite expensive to make high quality graphene. To further my point of how awesome graphene is check out this sweet info:

  • Thinnest compound known to man at just 1 Atom Thick!
  • Lightest material known to man 1 square meter weighs just .77 milligrams.
  • The strongest compound discovered, yeah it’s between 100 – 300 times stronger than steel. I guess superman will have to change his name.
  • The best conductor of electricity known to exist (15000 cm2/V.s)
  • The best conductor of heat…

As you can see it becomes highly valuable to the solar industry, its super lightweight, super strong, super conductive. You can read more about it here: http://www.graphenea.com/pages/graphene

How does it work?

So these Ocean researchers proposed that rain water has enough salts that it will contain a handful of positive and negative ions, this is somewhat similar to how your car battery works. Using a simple chemical reaction they hope to generate electricity by separating the positive ions from the rain drops as they hit the graphene solar panel. Early tests using salty water to simulate rain produced some great results. During this test the all-weather photovoltaic cell was able to produce a promising 6.53% solar to electric conversion efficiency. Compared to top of the line solar panels at the moment which produce a 22% efficiency. That’s pretty good for a first test.

The all-weather solar panel

This experiment was done with a thin-film solar cell (dye-sensitized) that had a layer of graphene added to the thin-film cell. This new panel was placed on a transparent mixture of indium tin oxide and plastic. That last part helps drive the ion reaction. This whole panel now known as an all-weather panel was hooked up to produce power from both sunshine and a rainy substitute. The positive charged ions bind to a layer of graphene and by doing this form a double layer with electrons already present in the system. This is a perfect storm for capacitance and the potential energy difference between the two layers is enough to drive electric current. Although these experiments are in the proof stages, rapid research and development are taking place to make solar panels a more attractive competitor in the ever changing free energy marketplace.

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