Solar power is nothing new in the world of technology these days. Over the past few decades, solar power has been at the forefront of innovation and testing. Many groups and companies have come up with several new and exciting ways to generate solar power, but now we seem to have a new player in the game – water. Solar power generators work great when they are exposed to the Sun. There seems to always be an underlying issue, though. When the sun isn’t out, how can we be sure that solar panels will generate enough power to fulfill our needs?

What Is Graphene?

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Graphene is a two-dimensional form of carbon in which the atoms are bonded together into a honeycomb-style arrangement. It is characterized by its unusual electronic properties: conducting electricity and being rich in electrons that move freely over the entire surface. With water, graphene can bind positively charged ions with its electrons. This property is the reason scientists turned to graphene when coming up with new ways to improve solar energy resources.

Graphene-Coated Solar Panels

A team of scientists in Qingdao, China has developed a solar panel that uses a layer of graphene to help generate electricity, even on days with no sun. It works on rainy days to separate ammonium, calcium, and sodium ions from the rain that falls on the panels. Once the ions are separated from the rain water, they cling to the electrons in the graphene. This helps them create their own special capacitor that generates electricity.

Although this may sound revolutionary – and it is a huge step forward – the use of graphene in solar panels have a long way to go before they even come close to competing in the solar panel market. With today’s standard solar panels working at 20 percent efficiency in optimal conditions, these new graphene-coated panels pale in comparison as they only work at 6.5 percent efficiency. While they still have some way to go before they are up to par, these new panels are just the beginning of what could be industry-changing. Researchers have admitted they only wanted to prove these panels could conduct energy from ions in water. Now they plan to improve the way it works.

What Does This Mean for The Solar Industry?

With this new concept of panels that can help generate power from multiple sources, the door to endless possibilities is open. Keep in mind we are still in the testing phases, which will require a lot of trial and error before we see results that we can use to better our future. Once these ‘kinks’ are worked out, researchers will be able to improve how these panels work. Moving forward, we may see other examples of dual-capacitors, inventions that are able to generate energy from two (or even more) sources simultaneously.

One day, we will have ways of generating power that do not harm our environment. Come rain or shine, we will know that our energy sources are clean and our Earth will be protected. If we keep this goal at the forefront of research and testing, we will make a difference.

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