Scientists from Soochow University in China have developed a new device that enables solar panels to generate electricity from raindrops as well as sun rays, according to the Guardian.

One of the key barriers to the adoption of solar power is that PV panels produce intermittently. However. innovators have been making significant strides in improving battery storage to overcome this problem, so that supply and demand can be balanced out.

However, research published in the journal ACS Nano last month shows how solar panels could produce electricity from falling raindrops, meaning they generate power even under gloomy skies.

The triboelectric nanogenerator or TENG uses two transparent polymer layers placed on top of the solar PV cell. The TENG captures friction produced by raindrops falling and rolling over the polymer layers, producing a static electricity charge.

Researcher Baoquan Sun said: “Our device can always generate electricity in any daytime weather. In addition, this device even provides electricity at night if there is rain.”

Although other researchers had already created similar devices, the scientists from Soochow University found a way to make the TENG more viable by simplifying it, improving efficiency and making it lighter. One of the polymer layers in the device functions as an electrode for both the TENG and the solar cell.

Sun said the research team hoped to develop a prototype product within three to five years. Other Chinese scientists recently found ways to harvest wind power from solar cells using TENGs.

Even with the issue of intermittent power generation, solar energy is one of the world’s fastest-growing energy sources. Costs have reduced by 90% over the last decade; since 2012 the cost of installing commercial solar panels like those used by multinationals Amazon, Apple and Walmart has fallen 58%, according to the Independent.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that renewable energy will represent 40% of global power generation by 2020. The IEA also says renewable sources are set to grow faster than any other power source over the next five years.

Now is the perfect time to adopt solar power and start saving money on your electricity bills by using that much-forgotten asset – your roof! Call the team at Zestec today to see how we can help.