Green Electricity from Snowfall

23rd April 2019

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Researchers at UCLA have engineered a device that can generate electricity from falling snow.

Christened a “snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator” or snow TENG for short, it works by taking advantage of the fact that snow is positively charged and the silicone the device uses is negatively charged.

When the falling snow comes into contact with the silicone, a charge is produced that can be used for electricity. Described as a small, thin and flexible device it is also quite inexpensive to produce and could be especially useful in remote locations where solar panels can get snow-covered, its creators believe.

“Static electricity occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons.  You separate the charges and create electricity out of essentially nothing,”  said senior author Richard Kaner, who holds UCLA’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation.

“The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries. It’s a very clever device — a weather station that can tell you how much snow is falling, the direction the snow is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind.”

The scientists can produce the device with a 3D printer at what they describe as a low cost.