Washington, February 8 : French scientists say that they have developed a technique that may facilitate the generation of electricity from rain showers.
Romain Guigon, a research and development engineer at the research institute CEA Leti-Minatec in Grenoble, France, says that the new technology may work in industrial air conditioning systems where water condenses and drops like rain.
It may even be combined with solar power to extract as much energy from the environment as possible, says the researcher.
He believes that the new technology may be used to power tiny, wireless sensors designed to monitor environmental conditions.
"Our calculations show that even in the most unfavourable conditions, the mechanical energy of the raindrops...is high enough to power low-consumption devices," Discovery News quoted Romain as saying.
Though Raiman admits that rain showers may not provide as much energy as the sun, he insists: "It's just a system that can be used where solar energy is difficult to exploit and/or combined with another technology for harvesting energy."
He has revealed that the method relies on a plastic called PVDF (for polyvinylidene difluoride), which has the unusual property of piezoelectricity.
The researcher says that PVDF-which is used in a range of products from pipes, films, and wire insulators to high-end paints for metal-can produce a charge when it is mechanically deformed.
Romain's team electrodes into a membrane of PVDF that was just 25 micrometers thick, and then bombarded the sheet with drops of water varying in diameter from 1 to 5 mm.
He says that vibrations were created as the drops hit the material, and that created a charge. The electrodes then recovered the charge for use as power.
The researchers have so far been able to generate 12 milliwatts from the largest drops that cause the biggest vibrations, and at least 1 microwatt of continuous power.
Dan Inman, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Structures at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, says that looking to rain for power is a worthy endeavour.
"You need to look at all possible sources of energy. Our lives are full of batteries, and they are not very ecological. Anything you can use to reduce the need for them or extend their use is a good thing to look at," said Inman.
He, however, insists that more research is required to determine how efficiently the energy created from the raindrops can be converted into power useful in electronic devices.