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  • Maher El-Kady

BBC: Snow joke! Electricity can be created from falling snow

::Source: BBC Newsround::

Snow - it's very pretty and a lot of fun, but useful? Hmmm... not so much. Or so we've thought, until now.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA ) have figured out a way to create electricity from falling snow.

Yes, really!

Using a specially created silicone sheet called a - wait for it - snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator (or a Snow TENG, for short), they've discovered it's possible to generate energy from the exchange of electrons.

Sounds complicated, right? Well If you've ever received a static shock when touching someone or something, you've seen the science at work.

Snowflakes are positively charged as they fall to the earth. As they settle on the ground they give up their electrons, making energy.

To create electricity there needs to be an opposite charge to catch the snow.

The UCLA researchers found that silicone's negative charge made it the best material for harvesting electrons from the snowflakes.

Why is this a big deal?

It's free, clean energy just waiting to be collected.

And the material used is cheap, so easy to produce in large amounts.

The creators of the Snow TENG believe it could be built into solar panels so that when they are blanketed with snow in the winter they continue to generate power.

But the Snow TENG may have other uses too; because it doesn't need batteries or charging, it could be used to create self-powered weather stations that could report back snowy conditions, or even improve activity trackers used by athletes competing in winter sports by tracking the movements of individual skis which would help athletes.

Snow! Who knew?!


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