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Published on February 12th, 2008 | by Maria Surma Manka

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Raindrops Keep Falling on My PVDF Membrane

February 12th, 2008 by  


rain.jpgFrench researchers are trying to develop a way to get electricity from rain, claiming the mechanical energy of raindrops could be enough to power low-energy devices.

It’s not exactly as sexy as harnessing that big ball of fire in the sky or a towering wind turbine. But a clean, 21st century energy system means trying to get energy out of pretty much anything. According to Discovery News, here’s how the rain power could work:

The method relies on a plastic called PVDF (for polyvinylidene difluoride), which is used in a range of products from pipes, films, and wire insulators to high-end paints for metal. PVDF has the unusual property of piezoelectricity, which means it can produce a charge when it’s mechanically deformed.

[Researchers] embedded electrodes into a thin membrane of PVDF, just 25 micrometers thick (it takes 1,000 micrometers to make one millimeter). Then they bombarded the sheet with drops of water varying in diameter from 1 to 5 mm.

As the drops hit the material, they create vibrations, which creates a charge. The electrodes recover the charge for use as power.

The biggest raindrops make the biggest vibrations, and the research team can make at least 1 microwatt of continuous power with the largest drops so far. It’s too early to say now whether we’ll be able to get stable electricity from rainshowers, it’s great that there are researchers like these who think outside the box. (Cloud power, anyone?)

Discovery News

Photo credit: Malene Thyssen  
 


 


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About the Author

I hail from Saint Paul, Minnesota, home to a region full of renewable energy potential and innovation. A public relations professional by day and blogger by night, I have a background in energy policy and communications. I'm particularly interested in the private sector's leadership and innovations in renewable energy - I cover this in my personal blog, Maria Energia. I enjoy traveling, reading, downhill skiing, scuba diving, and anything related to food (growing it, hunting it, cooking it, eating it). Fun fact: I make a 2-second appearance in An Inconvenient Truth (at the 2 minute mark, I'm the girl who is riveted.)



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