Water is the primary source of existence on our planet. However, even though the earth is three-quarters filled with this life-giving liquid, a lot of its potential has not been tapped yet…
One such area that the scientists are now exploring is generating electricity from falling droplets of water.
Hydel power generation is not new and has been providing electricity to several parts of the world for decades.
Yes, I said ‘Hydel’ not ‘Hydro’ as there is a slight difference
So, Hydropower is the power of water that may be used for various purposes like watermills for irrigation, operating mechanical devices, generating electricity, etc.
Whereas Hydel power is a more general term meaning the generation of electricity through water.
(Truth is there is only a small difference but it’s always good to be accurate.)
Ok, back to the subject at hand…
So, what is different about this new technology around power generation using droplets?
Let us talk a little bit about earlier innovations around droplet-based electricity generating structures and then look at what the new findings look like.
What Are The Challenges with Existing Technologies…
When droplets of water are allowed to fall on a surface, they generate a sort of low-frequency kinetic energy.
Previously, several experiments were carried out to see if this energy could be converted to electricity. The results were, well, not a complete zero, but not very promising either.
The primary challenge behind these trials was that the amount of charge generated by this form of contact of a droplet on a surface was quite low.
No, you could not even probably light up your Christmas tree with it. Of course, back then, scientists were unsure of which surfaces would be best for the droplets to fall on.
So, what changed now?
PTFE To The Rescue…
Researchers at the City University of Hong Kong found a possible solution to the low energy conversion issue by changing the surface on which the water droplets fell.
Because after thorough research, they decided to go with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
PTFE is a versatile material with several amazing properties such as high-temperature resistance, non-wetting, high density, and so on.
The term PTFE might ring a bell to those who use non-stick cookware in their kitchen as this material commonly provides the non-stick coating on these utensils.
So, why did the research team choose PTFE?
The answer was astonishingly simple. It was seen that when water droplets fell on a PTFE surface, the surface charges generated continued to accumulate until they reached a saturation point. This saturation point was high enough to convert the charges into usable electric power.
The Role of FET-Like Structures
The miraculous findings around PTFE led the scientists to believe that energy conversion at a higher rate than traditional methods is possible through mere water droplets.
In order to give the theory a glimmer of practical hope, they designed a structure similar to a Field-Effect Transistor (FET).
It was a simple setup of an aluminum electrode and another electrode made of Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) which they then coated with PTFE.
In the controlled experiment, water droplets were allowed to continuously fall on the PTFE surface which formed a closed circuit of an uninterrupted, high-density power source.
Promising Future In Sustainable Energy?
It is all very well to know that PTFE has a high energy conversion rate when it comes to using the kinetic energy of a falling droplet of water.
But is it sustainable? How much electricity does it generate? Well, all of these questions have promising answers as well.
The research team has proven that when a droplet of water measuring a millionth of a litre falls on a PTFE surface from a height of 15 cm, the power generated could switch on a hundred LED light bulbs. Now, that is truly inspiring.
Moving On To Sustainability…
This technology has a promising future as any form of water droplet can be used regardless of the source.
Also, this device could be built onto any surface area, however large or small. So, do not be surprised if you visit a coastal area a few years down the line and spot a ‘droplet electricity generator’.
Because if this technology can be scaled, the scope is limitless.
Now, In this era of rapidly depleting natural gases and other fossil fuels, such an innovation truly looks like a huge milestone for renewable energy enthusiasts so fingers crossed the future looks bright for this new innovation.
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