Researchers from Soochow University in China have demonstrated that a solar cell can generate electricity from rain drops.
By using a form of electricity generator called a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), researchers have shown they can convert mechanical energy, effectively motion, into electricity. In this case, solar cells harvest power from the movement of raindrops falling upon them. It is hoped the same premise could be applied to harness other forms of mechanical energy from the living environment, such as walking, typing or moving vehicles.
If solar panels could also generate energy from rainfall it could give them the potential to produce energy even during cloud cover and potentially at night, thereby helping alleviate energy intermittency issues. Nonetheless, researchers say they need to improve output power efficiency and that they are 3-5 years away from developing an effective prototype.
Could this new technology boost the potential of distributed solar and help reduce the need for energy storage? Could it also help bring solar energy to countries not known for their sunny weather, such as Britain?