Researchers have designed a new device with which we can now obtain electricity from falling snow.
This new energy conversion method could become a new source of electricity in the future, especially in remote areas, as it does not need batteries. Researchers called it a Snow-based TriboElectric NanoGenerator, or Snow TENG. It is inexpensive, small, thin, and flexible like a sheet of plastic.
After starting a charge from static electricity, energy is generated from the exchange of electrons. Snow is already positively charged by giving up its electrons, while silicone, a rubber-like material which consists of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, is combined with carbon, hydrogen, and other elements to be negatively charged. When the positive-charged snow falls onto the surface of the silicone, the charges interact, and the Snow TENG captures the charge, which allows it to turn snowfall into electricity.
30% of Earth’s surface is covered by snow each winter, which is also the time when solar panels, one of the most reliable renewable sources of energy, aren’t very effective. Snow accumulation reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar array, which makes them unable to operate.
Snow TENG could be integrated into solar panels and provide a continuous power supply, even at a time when it’s snowing. Researchers used 3D printing to design the small device. It consists of a layer of silicone and an electrode which can capture the electric charge. Given that silicone is widely used in the industry, this method could dramatically reduce the global costs of producing electricity.