Scientists from the United States have developed a technology that allows you to receive electricity from snow. The device can be installed permanently, or attached to a bicycle wheel or shoe sole.
In 2019, it is difficult to surprise anyone with solar or wind power stations, electric energy recovery systems in electric vehicles or wireless charging systems which can recharge a smartphone.
However, researchers from California have gone further and created a technology that allows electricity to be generated directly from the snow. According to Science Alert, Nanotech Energy has developed a device that can generate electricity from contact with snow.
The system became possible due to the triboelectric effect i.e. the creation of an electric charge created by friction generated between certain materials. The smallest particles of snow carry a positive electrical charge, and scientists needed to use a suitable negatively charged material to create electricity. Silicon turned out to be such a material.
The device that the company developed is called a Triboelectric Nanogenerator (TENG). Nanotech Energy printed the main electrode on a 3D printer and used silicon as the triboelectric layer that collects electricity.
It is reported that with the help of such a device it is possible to produce electricity both from simple snowfall as well as by attaching the electrode to vehicles or clothing.
A chemist at the University of California explained that static electricity comes from one material that can attract electrons and another material that can give them away. “In this way, you can create electricity out of thin air.”
True, there’s not so much “electricity from nothing”: TENG can generate an instantaneous electromagnetic energy density of up to 0.2 mW/m2, open circuit voltage up to 8 Volts and current density up to 40 μA/m2. In comparison, for bright room lighting, you need an incandescent lamp with an electromagnetic energy density of 20 W/m2.
Nanotech Energy suggests using TENG as a small weather station for real-time weather monitoring, which will be able to provide information on snowfall speed, rainfall, wind direction, etc. In addition, the device can be something like a fitness bracelet for athletes in winter sports, and help them track the movement of the body and its performance.
However, Science Alert also writes that in the future, TENG could be installed in solar panels and used during snowfalls when solar activity is not so high. Given that about 46 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface are subject to snowfall every year, this technology has a chance of scale and growth.
Harnessing electricity from snow by the triboelectric effect is not the first such technology of its kind. Previously, researchers also showed devices that can produce electricity from rain, physical movements, friction of car tires, and walking on a wooden surface.