Chinese breakthrough in harvesting energy from the sun and the rain

Researchers in China have developed a hybrid device that can generate power from both a PV cell and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) – a device which can generate power from the motion of raindrops.

The researchers, from the Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Carbon-Based Functional Materials and Devices, Institute of Functional Nano & Soft Materials (FUNSOM) and the Joint International Research Laboratory of Carbon-Based Functional Materials and Devices, Soochow University, acknowledged that such devices have been built before, but that theirs is based on a new concept and improves on previous designs, which were bulky and complex to manufacture.

The device, described in a paper published in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano, combines a silicon heterojunction solar cell with a triboelectric polymer material, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS).

Another polymer material, poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate), or PEDOT:PSS is placed between the devices, and acts as an electrode conducting energy produced by the TENG into the solar cell. The researchers note that both polymer layers are transparent, allowing the solar cell to continue generating power.

The TENG device achieved a peak short-circuit current of 33nA and peak open circuit voltage of 2.14 V, under unspecified testing conditions. Further details of the device’s performance were not provided, however the researchers are confident of the potential for synergy between the two generation technologies.

“The hybrid energy harvesting system’s integrated electrode configuration can combine the advantages of high current level of a solar cell and high voltage of a TENG device,” states the paper’s abstract, “promising an efficient approach to collect energy from the environment in different weather conditions.”