[Image Source: Oregon Department of Transportation, Flickr]
Graphene has been the subject of research programs at numerous academic institutions all over the world with regard to benefits for renewable energy, such as those involving Manchester and Abu Dhabi Universities earlier this year. The material is basically a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a lattice structure that makes it 10 times stronger than steel but 1000 times lighter than a sheet of paper. It has great potential for the development of electrical components and gadgets and other items, from sensors and batteries to ion-exchange membranes with a range of potential applications including energy, defense and water treatment.
With regard to potential benefits for renewable energy, researchers have discovered it can hold energy better than graphite, which means it can be used for battery energy storage, in EVs and in fuel cells. It can also be used to develop anti-reflection coatings for solar cells.
More recently, researchers from Ocean University of China in Qingdao have discovered that graphene can also help to generate energy from raindrops. It can achieve this because rain doesn’t consist entirely of water, it also contains a number of salts that can be split into positive and negative ions. This in turn means that a simple chemical reaction can be used to harness power, using graphene to separate the positively charged ions, which includes sodium, calcium and ammonium, in order to generate electricity. Normally when a raindrop sits on the surface of a solar panel, the various salts within it mean that it can generate a number of unbalanced charges. The electrons binding with positively charged ions create an effect known as the Lewis acid-base interaction.