Solar panels could soon be rid of their bad press when it comes to their efficiency levels in bad weather, with scientists coming up with the answer to producing electricity while it’s raining.
By coating the bottom sides of the solar cells with a thin layer of graphene, scientists have now established a way for solar panels to produce electricity using rain water. The graphene interacts with the positively charged ions found in rain drops.
So now on rainy days the solar cells can be turned with the graphene pointing towards the sky. The researchers published their findings in the journal, Angewandte Chemie, writing:
“Although great achievements have been made since the discovery of various solar cells, there is still a remaining problem that the currently known solar cells can only be excited by sunlight on sunny days.”
The advance was made possible due to a simple chemical process: the Lewis acid-base interaction. Rain is an excellent source of dissolved salts that is full of positive and negative ions. As the rain drops encounter the graphene layer, it forms a virtual capacitor, and then the positive ions like ammonium, calcium, and sodium stimulate electrical currents.
Using just an atom-thick layer of graphene, it can produce hundreds of millivolts worth of voltage. The researchers believe that the new design could be applied to many different solar cell designs, writing that it “can guide the design of advanced all-weather solar cells.”
Solar cells have come a long way since their conception, improving well over 20 percent in just the last few years.
Because solar cells are recognized to be the lowest impact energy alternative to fossil fuels, more and more private citizens — as well as entire countries — are making the switch from non-renewable resources to the much more environmentally friendly power of the sun.