Solar Cells Powered by the Rain As Well is Now a Thing, Theoretically

Chinese scientists are working on creating dual-use solar cells that not only derive power from the sun, but also from the rain.


New solar panel creates power from rain, as well as sunlight

With an upcoming data tsunami expected to absorb up to 20 percent of global electricity by 2025, according to some experts, data center energy sources are a hot talking point — the photovoltaic solar panel being one of the hottest and most viable fossil fuel alternatives.

However, there’s an obvious problem with the solar panel as electricity source: When sunlight drops off on cloudy or rainy days, so does power output.

Chinese scientists, though, think they have a solution, and that’s to develop a generalized hybrid panel that also harnesses the power of rain. It compensates for lack of sun on iffy days and at night.

“Solar cells, as promising devices for converting light into electricity, have a dramatically reduced performance on rainy days,” say the scientists from Soochow University in an abstract of their paper published in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Nano. So they think they can “realize power generation from both sunlight and raindrops.”

They’re using a triboelectric nano-generator, also known as a TENG generator. That’s a polymer-constructed device that captures an electrical charge from mechanical energy, or friction. As the raindrops fall on the surface and then roll off, power is created from the compression and force.

By making the TENG see-through and combining it with a conventional silicon solar panel, solar energy gets to the photovoltaic panel, too, and thus power is created from both rain and sunlight.

Importantly, and the reason why this invention is different from previous ideas in the same vein, the group has figured out how to use a mutual electrode to join the two polymer elements, rather than wire, explains Lisa Zyga at She communicated with paper co-author Dr. Zhen Wen at Soochow University.

Removing the wire makes the hybrid generator efficient and allows for a waterproof barrier so that bad weather doesn’t permeate the silicon used in the solar panel.

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