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article imageNew device uses nano-tech to create electricity from snowfall

By Tim Sandle     Apr 17, 2019 in Science
Researchers have devised a nanogenerator that can use snowfall to generate electricity, thereby providing an alternative form of power for a new generation of wearables. In addition the device can function as a weather station.
Not only is the new device, developed by researchers from the sunnier climes of University of California - Los Angeles, novel (it is the first of its kind) it can be produced at a low cost. Moreover, the device is small, thin and flexible (much like a sheet of plastic). The aim is for the device to be used in remote areas, ideally as some type of wearable monitor, where access to power sources is limited. To support this, the device itself does not require batteries for its operation.
The new technology creates a charge through static electricity, and it produces energy from the exchange of electrons. Static electricity refers to the imbalance of electric charges that occurs within or on the surface of a material. It is generated from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons.
This exchange process is the basis of the new device. Snow has a positive charged and it will, under the right conditions, give up electrons. This exchange happens with the material that forms the basis of the device - silicone (or rather a synthetic rubber-type material that is made up of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms), which carries a negatively charge.
The success is down to the composition of the device material and how efficient it is. The researchers experimented with an array of different materials, before deciding upon the silicone composite.
According to lead scientist, Richard Kaner, the triboelectric nanogenerator is "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."
A potential application of the device is as the basis for a new generation of self-powered wearable devices which could be used for tracking winter-sports athletes and for assessing their performances.
The research has been published in the journal Nano Energy, with the paper titled "All printable snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator."
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