Snow Powered Electronics
Engineers and chemists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed the first snow-based energy harvester. The device simply consists of a thin and flexible sheet of plastic that works as a triboelectric nanogenerator, an energy-harvesting nanodevice that can harness a charge from static electricity. Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons, while silicone is negatively charged and accepts the electrons. So, as the snow lands on the silicone, a charge is produced and then captured.
"Snow is already charged, so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?” said co-author Maher El-Kady, a UCLA assistant researcher of chemistry and biochemistry.
This device could potentially be incorporated into wearable electronics like the ones used in monitoring an athlete’s performance during winter sports, though the most logical use of this device is to integrate it into weather stations in snowy locations, because it can sense the snowfall, wind direction, and other weather conditions while generating its own electricity.
At the moment, the amount of energy harnessed is pretty tiny and the technology is unlikely to be scaled up to become a snowy climate equivalent of solar panels. Nevertheless, the researchers believe it has some real-world applications, such as helping weather stations tick along during tough winter storms.
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