Winter is coming, and researchers have found a way to generate electricity from it

Polycount

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Clean energy is all the rage nowadays, but current technology is limiting its widespread adoption. Hydro and wind power are tough for the average person to make use of, and solar energy, though more accessible, can still be quite expensive to set up.

Even if price wasn't an issue, current solar panel tech relies on consistent sunlight to remain fully active. That's just fine during the long days of summer, but as the Starks say, Winter is coming - and when it does, those expensive panels can become little more than overpriced roof decorations in some parts of the US. This is primarily due to the season's shorter days and the fact that even a light dusting of snow can inhibit a solar panel's ability to generate energy.

Fortunately, an unconventional solution might be on the way. A research team working out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a "snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator." That's quite a mouthful, so researchers have shortened the name to "snow TENG."

So, what exactly does this snow TENG do? In short, it generates power from -- you guessed it -- snowfall. Because snow is positively charged, researchers discovered that they could make the snow TENG out of an oppositely-charged material (as well as an electrode) to create static electricity when snow makes contact with it.

"While snow likes to give up electrons, the performance of the device depends on the efficiency of the other material at extracting these electrons," UCLA researcher Maher El-Kady explained a statement. "After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material."

Amazingly, the generator does not require its own source of power and is remarkably affordable to create. It is also very thin and flexible, which should make it quite resistant to the elements. UCLA likens the snow TENG's design to a "sheet of plastic" (no photos have been provided yet).

El-Kady says that the snow TENG could be implemented into existing solar panel arrays, effectively giving regions with both strong summer and winter seasons year-round green energy.

To be clear, this technology is still in early development, and it's probably far from efficient at the moment. As such, don't expect to be able to go to the store and pick up a snow TENG of your own anytime soon. Still, it's exciting to think that snow power may eventually become a viable alternative to wind, solar, and hydro-based energy in the future.

Mid image courtesy Getty via Gizmodo

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Dyson Parkes

TS Booster
"Hydro and wind power are tough for the average person to make use of, and solar energy, though more accessible, can still be quite expensive to set up."

Plus all that cancer from wind power is a bit of a deal-breaker.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
"Clean energy is all the rage nowadays, but current technology is limiting its widespread adoption. Hydro and wind power are tough for the average person to make use of, and solar energy, though more accessible, can still be quite expensive to set up."

That's why you leave it to the energy companies who can do it at scale. If you can afford a nice solar array and you live in desert state then it makes sense to have your own power plant. What does NOT make sense are boondoggles such as California's insane requirement for all new houses to have solar panels.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
"Clean energy is all the rage nowadays, but current technology is limiting its widespread adoption. Hydro and wind power are tough for the average person to make use of, and solar energy, though more accessible, can still be quite expensive to set up."

That's why you leave it to the energy companies who can do it at scale. If you can afford a nice solar array and you live in desert state then it makes sense to have your own power plant. What does NOT make sense are boondoggles such as California's insane requirement for all new houses to have solar panels.
Given the crazy housing market in Cali, it actually kind of makes sense. They were going to price the house at what you could just barely afford before, the only difference now is instead of the companies getting that extra 10K in markup, you are getting a solar array at the same price.
 

misor

TS Evangelist
Heat, cold, sun, wind, water, oil, natural gas, atom = sources of energy, so are humans now truly masters of their fate?
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
..[ ]...Plus all that cancer from wind power is a bit of a deal-breaker.
Not to mention living next to a wind farm reduces the value of your house by 70%.

Come to think of it, why is that a bad thing? :confused: When property values soar, real estate taxes skyrocket! :eek:

Trump must build all his golf courses next to wind farms
 
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Hardware Geek

TS Addict
..[ ]...Plus all that cancer from wind power is a bit of a deal-breaker.
Not to mention living next to a wind farm reduces the value of your house by 70%.

Come to think of it, why is that a bad thing? :confused: When property values soar, real estate taxes skyrocket! :eek:

Trump must build all his golf courses next to wind farms
He should put wind farms on his courses. That will really bring down the property taxes and it will give him cancer. Win win.
 

quadibloc

TS Booster
It's true the average person can't build a hydroelectric dam, but power that a utility makes from one is as accessible as power coming from a coal-fired plant.
 

Arris

TS Evangelist
So, what exactly does this snow TENG do? In short, it generates power from -- you guessed it -- snowfall. Because snow is positively charged, researchers discovered that they could make the snow TENG out of an oppositely-charged material (as well as an electrode) to create static electricity when snow makes contact with it.
Would this not only work for the intial layer of snow that contacts the surface of the TENG? Making it even worse than the initial theorycrafting suggests...
 

Robby-san

TS Rookie
So, what exactly does this snow TENG do? In short, it generates power from -- you guessed it -- snowfall. Because snow is positively charged, researchers discovered that they could make the snow TENG out of an oppositely-charged material (as well as an electrode) to create static electricity when snow makes contact with it.
Would this not only work for the intial layer of snow that contacts the surface of the TENG? Making it even worse than the initial theorycrafting suggests...
Actually if you mount them at an angle, the snow should run off, and you are constantly getting new snow hitting the sheets directly.
 

Arris

TS Evangelist
Actually if you mount them at an angle, the snow should run off, and you are constantly getting new snow hitting the sheets directly.
Problem is if you want them to be optimal when operating as solar panels you are somewhat restricted to the angle you can mount them at. Given the material the snow might slide off easily enough. I'll have to check out our panels next time we get some snow.
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
..[ ]...Plus all that cancer from wind power is a bit of a deal-breaker.
Not to mention living next to a wind farm reduces the value of your house by 70%.

Come to think of it, why is that a bad thing? :confused: When property values soar, real estate taxes skyrocket! :eek:

Trump must build all his golf courses next to wind farms
The trick is to buy the property next to the wind farm, and no the property next to the -future- wind farm.
 
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ypsylon

TS Booster
Not a ground breaking news as it may seems.

There are already houses built where heating and electricity is provided by ice. Yes ordinary ice. Like any process in nature freezing and melting produces energy. It is only matter of harnessing that energy. So snow is not that far off.

Seen houses like that in Germany and Austria for example. Of course it works only with new ones. Adaptation of existing classic structure is prohibitively expensive.