Solar Panels that Add Rain to the Mix

When Inus Dreckmeyr was interviewed by Carte Blanche about his family home, which is completely off the Eskom power grid, everyone got a little bit jealous. Dreckmeyr had accomplished what so many South Africans wish they could, and that is to become independent from the one power source South Africa has. For Inus and his family it doesn't matter if Eskom shuts down completely, because they will still have enough power. Thanks to the tracking system of the solar panels, his home is able to gather the necessary energy at about 11:00 in the morning. However, Inus has the tiny problem of packing power when it's raining.

For those who missed the segment on Carte Blanche, Inus uses a combination of solar and gas to run his entire home. It also cost him about R350,000.00 to make the home Eskom free.

The Latest Technology in Solar Power

The world has already witnessed how wonderful life can be with something as simple as a solar panel, but the downside of this renewable energy has kept residents from really investing in it. Up until now cloudy weather and rain have been the main enemies against solar power, but that is about to change. According to a team at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, it's possible to harness rain as well as sun rays. But how exactly?

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The secret lies in graphene material, which the above mentioned team used to come up with a different type of solar panel. Graphene isn't something they discovered yesterday, but only now, thanks to some very smart people, it's being utilized to make the solar panel option even more viable than before.

How it Works

Based on the simple concept of a chemical reaction, the team simulated a rainy situation and tested their theory using a thin-film solar cell. On top of this cell they placed a thin layer of graphene. The important thing to note here is that rainwater isn't just water. Given that other elements, such as salt, is part of the water, there are also positive and negative ions. This is where the magic happens. The positive ions bind to the layer of graphene and the negative ions to the solar cell. Now there is potential energy between the two layers that is strong enough to create an electric current. Obviously it's not as simple as it sounds, but it captures the basics of the process.

Even though it's not the first time graphene has been used with solar panels, it's the first time that it has been used in this way. In the beginning of this year a UK team successfully used graphene to create solar panels capable of effectively absorbing ambient heat and light that is found indoors.

When will they be Available?

Unfortunately it's still early days for this technology, because testing still has to take place outside of the lab. Even though the simulated tests went well, it hasn't been proven to work with real rainwater. Regardless of how long people will have to wait, at least the evolution towards a greener energy is speeding up and alternatives are steadily making their way to the masses.

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