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

By Polycount · 27 replies
Apr 16, 2019
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  1. 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

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,402   +2,947

    Winter is coming? I don't mean to trouble your bubble, but when the spring ends, it is usually summer time.

    Maybe you've been watching too much of GOT.
     
    Aux101, Eldritch, MaXtor and 4 others like this.
  3. Dyson Parkes

    Dyson Parkes TS Booster Posts: 31   +27

    "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.
     
    Hardware Geek and Polycount like this.
  4. Polycount

    Polycount TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,700   +382

    Hush, you. Don't ruin my stupid show references. Winter is always coming!

    ... It's just a good 7-8 months away for now.
     
  5. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,662   +2,418

    "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.
     
  6. Lew Zealand

    Lew Zealand TS Guru Posts: 596   +484

    Hoo boy, and don’t get me started on this gangrene that geothermal gave me. And I’ll have to show you on the doll where nuclear touched me.
     
  7. Mr Majestyk

    Mr Majestyk TS Booster Posts: 134   +99

    Gee that'll be really useful in the southern hemisphere.
     
  8. Godel

    Godel TS Addict Posts: 172   +88

    Yawn.

    "The problem is that the Snow TENG produces a pretty tiny amount of electricity in its current form – it has a power density of 0.2 mW per square meter. That means you won't really be hooking that up to the grid like a solar panel, but it could make for small, self-powered weather sensors."

    https://newatlas.com/snow-teng-generator/59311/
     
    mbrowne5061 and xxLCxx like this.
  9. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,167   +855

    Nuclear Power seems more reasonable.
     
    Godel and mbrowne5061 like this.
  10. elementalSG

    elementalSG TS Booster Posts: 107   +85

    [Jon] Snow is going to be used to generate electricity?
     
  11. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,903   +3,353

    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.
     
  12. seeprime

    seeprime TS Guru Posts: 377   +405

    The bottom half of the planet sees things a bit differently since winter is indeed coming to them.
     
    Dyson Parkes likes this.
  13. misor

    misor TS Evangelist Posts: 1,397   +303

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

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,779   +3,906

    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
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
    Hardware Geek likes this.
  15. Hardware Geek

    Hardware Geek TS Enthusiast Posts: 55   +31

    He should put wind farms on his courses. That will really bring down the property taxes and it will give him cancer. Win win.
     
    Dyson Parkes and captaincranky like this.
  16. quadibloc

    quadibloc TS Booster Posts: 64   +33

    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.
     
  17. quadibloc

    quadibloc TS Booster Posts: 64   +33

    Is this an Australian, or New Zealand, technology site?
     
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,779   +3,906

    You mean like this?

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,689   +423

    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...
     
  20. Robby-san

    Robby-san TS Rookie

    Actually if you mount them at an angle, the snow should run off, and you are constantly getting new snow hitting the sheets directly.
     
  21. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,689   +423

    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.
     
  22. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,178   +648

    The trick is to buy the property next to the wind farm, and no the property next to the -future- wind farm.
     
    Hardware Geek likes this.
  23. Dyson Parkes

    Dyson Parkes TS Booster Posts: 31   +27

    Quoted by the Captain, I'm honoured.

    I know why Trump doesn't build next to wind farms. He doesn't want them making money selling the power they'd generate from all the hot air he talks.
     
    Hardware Geek likes this.
  24. ChrisH1

    ChrisH1 TS Addict Posts: 133   +67

    This hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of making it as a saleable product!
     
  25. ypsylon

    ypsylon TS Booster Posts: 158   +48

    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.
     

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