Raindrops New Source of Low-Intensity Clean Energy


A new study has shown that raindrops can be used to produce electricity. The key is the mechanical energy of the raindrops, meaning the energy contained in their motion and in the way that force is diffused when striking a given type of surface. In this case the surface is PVDF (polyvinylidene difluoride) plastic, which is able to release a charge when temporarily “deformed” by mechanical activity, such as being struck by a moving object.

A sheet of PVDF just 25 micrometers thick (1,000 = 1 milimeter) receives the impact of raindrops, and the effect is the release of energy, which can be harvested and turned into electricity. Romain Guigon, from the research institute CEA Leti-Minatec in Grenoble, France, says the research shows that “even in the most unfavorable conditions, the mechanical energy of the raindrops… is high enough to power low-consumption devices”, but the study does not specify how well circuitry retains a minimum charge sufficient for regular functioning.

While circuitry is a vital issue related to this potential technological advance, it may also be worth looking at what uses there might be for such tools as the PVDF sheets that gather energy to the system’s electrodes. Careful adjustment of the study’s initial presumptions could lead to powerful new supplementary energy applications, saving battery life or eliminating the need for ecologically unfriendly battery systems altogether.

If broken down into ultra-thin fibers that can be woven together to create flexible, wear-resistant energy-harvesting fabrics, the raindrop-effect discovered in PVDF sheets could be translated to an astoundingly broad range of uses. If PVDF sheets or such a PVDF microfiber fabric were combined with a thin laminate of solid-state light-emitting plastics, the resulting product could be a self-sustaining light source, harvesting kinetic energy from its environment, and producing light with no environmental impact, and where possible, electric current and heat.

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