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  • Writer's pictureMaher El-Kady

Texas Energy Rep: Nanosystems Research Yields Device That Can Extract Electricity from Falling Snow

Researchers at the Nanosystems Institute at UCLA are looking ahead — way ahead — for ways to enhance the electricity-generating power of solar panels and one new hope is a device that creates electricity from falling snow.

Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons, “so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?” according to University of California at Los Angeles Assistant Researcher of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maher El-Kady.

And since snow is so common during the winter, a time when solar panels produce relatively little power when compared to summer, the hope is to integrate the snow-power device into solar panels to increase power generation.

“While snow likes to give up electrons, the performance of the device depends on the efficiency of the other material at extracting these electrons,” he added.

“After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material.”

As you can imagine, the devices don’t crank out much electricity so far, but research continues and the device is pleasingly simple, inexpensive, small, thin and flexible like a sheet of plastic.

At minimum, the device is already good for powering small weather stations that would be useful in remote areas during exploration of snow-laden territories.

And it could easily be built into a new generation of self-powered snowshoes, hiking shoes and vests that could be used for athletes to monitor their performance when hiking, running and jumping.

The research results and findings are printed in the journal Nano Energy.

El-Kady and co-author Richard Kaner have already designed devices that make similar use of small amounts of self-generated electricity.

The Nanosystems Institute says in 2017 they produced a device that can “use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.”

And also this year they published research on their design of the first fire-retardant, self-extinguishing motion sensor and power generator, which could be embedded in shoes or clothing worn by firefighters and others who work in harsh environments.

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