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Novel device creates electricity from snowfall

Press Trust of India  |  Los Angeles 

Scientists have designed a first-of-its-kind 3D-printed device that can produce from falling

The device designed by researchers at the University of California, (UCLA) in the US is inexpensive, small, thin and flexible like a sheet of plastic.

"The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries," said UCLA's Richard Kaner, published in the journal Nano

"It's a very -- a weather station that can tell you how much is falling, the direction the is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind," Kaner said in a statement.

The device called snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG, generates charge through static electricity, produces from the exchange of electrons.

"Static occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons," said Kaner.

"You separate the charges and create out of essentially nothing," he said.

Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons.

Silicone -- a that is composed of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, combined with carbon, hydrogen and other elements -- is negatively charged.

When falling snow contacts the surface of silicone, it produces a charge that the device captures, creating 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 Maher El-Kady, a UCLA

"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, the researchers found that silicone produces more charge than any other material.

About 30 per cent of the Earth's surface is covered by snow each winter, during which time solar panels often fail to operate, El-Kady noted.

The accumulation of snow reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar array, limiting the panels' power output and rendering them less effective.

The new device could be integrated into solar panels to provide a continuous power supply when it snows, he said.

The device can be used for monitoring winter sports, such as skiing, to more precisely assess and improve an athlete's performance when running, walking or jumping, Kaner said.

It could usher in a new generation of for tracking athletes and their performances, researchers said.

The device can also send signals, indicating whether a person is moving. It can tell when a person is walking, running, jumping or marching, they said.

The team used to design the device, which has a layer of silicone and an electrode to capture the charge.

The researchers believe the device could be produced at low cost given "the ease of fabrication and the availability of silicone," Kaner said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 16 2019. 11:45 IST