Graphene is a game-changing material that is already having a pretty big influence in the solar cell and battery storage industries. The potential that this promises could not only lower the costs of being able to go off-grid by converting to solar energy, but as more and more applications are found, it could also reduce the size and number of panels and even batteries, needed to make the move to self-reliance.
WHAT CAN GRAPHENE DO? Graphene’s properties:
Graphene: the world’s first 2D material. Since graphene’s isolation in 2004 it has captured the attention of scientists, researchers and industry worldwide.
- It is ultra-light yet immensely tough.
- It is 200 times stronger than steel, but it is incredibly flexible.
- It is the thinnest material possible as well as being transparent.
- It is a superb conductor and can act as a perfect barrier – not even helium can pass through it.
All this and more. Much more. ~ The University of Manchester
While many of the developments are centered on how it can improve the efficiency of solar panels in direct light, a new approach is working on generating power from rain as well! The ability to be able to generate energy during less than ideal weather would be a step forward and it could be of a huge benefit to those who are living the off-grid lifestyle, or are looking into it, in areas of the country where rainy days sometimes equal (or even surpass) the sunny ones.
“This phenomenon inspired researchers working with Qunwei Tang to use graphene electrodes to obtain power from the impact of raindrops. Raindrops are not pure water. They contain salts that dissociate into positive and negative ions. The positively charged ions, including sodium, calcium, and ammonium ions, can bind to the graphene surface. At the point of contact between the raindrop and the graphene, the water becomes enriched in positive ions and the graphene becomes enriched in delocalized electrons. This results in a double-layer made of electrons and positively charged ions, a feature known as a pseudocapacitor. The difference in potential associated with this phenomenon is sufficient to produce a voltage and current.” ~Phys.org
By using graphene in combination with existing solar cell technology, scientists are able to separate the positively charged ions that naturally occur in rainwater. So far testing with a saltwater mixture is showing good results and testing will move to sorting out how to use other positively charged ions to produce electricity even when it storms.
For now this proof of concept phase is showing promise and along with the other advances and benefits of graphene, we could see it become more affordable and efficient to move to an off grid lifestyle.