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  • Writer's pictureMaher El-Kady

Daily Mail: Radical new device creates electricity from falling SNOW

::Source: Daily Mail::

Scientists have engineered creative ways to capture the energy of nearly all of nature's most fundamental forces; from water and wind, to solar, and now for the first time ever, snow.

According to researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) the device, called a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG, leverages a basic chemical reaction to create static electricity that can be harnessed for power.

'Static electricity occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons,' said Richard Kaner, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and a member of California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.  

'You separate the charges and create electricity out of essentially nothing.'

In this case, say researchers, the snow, which is positively charged, falls onto a silicone pad with a negative charge. The reaction between the two opposing charges results in static electricity.

'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. 

Scientists say the application of their technology is multi-faceted. 

For one, the device could be integrated into solar panels to help bolster their efficiency in areas that experience regular snowfall. 

Panels often get buried in snow, preventing them from harvesting the suns rays.

Researchers say the device could also be used to power wearable technology that is used to track athletes movements and performance in winter sports. 

Because of the material's durability, it could be easily applied to the bottom of a boot or ski where it could transfer energy to another device.

On top of that, it can also serve as what the scientists call a 'miniaturized weather station' by monitoring the rate of snow fall, accumulation, wind, and more.

Not only is the technology handy, but researchers say it's also incredibly simple to make. 

Solar panels often have trouble generating power in areas that experience abundant snowfall because the snow blocks the sunlight

The snow TENG was 3-D printed by scientists and consists only of a piece of silicone -- a material that is both abundant and affordable -- which is then attached to an electrode that captures the electricity. 

The device marks just the latest technological innovation for the two researchers who have  also recently engineered a membrane that help to separate oil from water which could help clean the environment, and a novel way to both create and store energy that they say can make hydrogen cars more affordable. 

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