(UR) Qingdao, China — Solar energy is immediately recognizable as a renewable energy source. In fact, some argue that solar is potentially one of the best sources for alternative energy humans have access to. As with anything, the more people are interested, the more these technologies become widely available.
Unfortunately, even with the most efficient panels, the weather can often rain on your electricity parade. With inclement weather responsible for a “40% – 90%” reduction in photovoltaic effectiveness, rain and cloud cover have been among some of the major obstacles of the technology — until now.
Last week, researchers from Ocean University of China in Qingdao released a report that says the rainy-day issues of photovoltaics might be behind us. In fact, the rain itself can be used to actually produce more energy than the sun, alone. It all comes from the use of a material known as graphene, “an allotrope of carbon,” that was isolated in 2004.
One of the remarkable properties of graphene is its ability to interact with the various elements that can be found in rain, like sodium and calcium. This reaction actually creates a charge that can then be stored, allowing the solar panel to continue to collect energy during a low-UV rainstorm. By adding graphene to solar cells, their potential is increased immensely, and the massive drop in efficiency that normally came with a storm is reduced.
The applicability of this technology is far-reaching, specifically in developing nations. Despite rainy seasons meaning an extended period of reduced solar gathering, the inclusion of graphene into photovoltaic construction will mean almost year-round electricity for people who live too far from energy infrastructure to have steady current.
Regardless of the application, solar panels that can extract energy from the rain are, among other things, a great reason to consider alternative and renewable energy technologies. The more technologies like these are demanded by consumers, the more they will be researched, and the more sustainable solutions to the ongoing and worsening global energy crisis will exist. And that’s a good thing.
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