A team of engineers has figured out how to take a single drop of rain and use it to generate a powerful flash of electricity.
The City University of Hong Kong researchers behind the device, which they’re calling a droplet-based electricity generator (DEG), say that a single rain droplet can briefly generate 140 volts. That was enough to briefly power 100 small lightbulbs and, while it’s not yet practical enough for everyday use, it’s a promising step toward a new form of renewable electricity.
The DEG uses a “field-effect transistor-style structure,” Engadget reports, which can turn rainfall into short bursts of power.
The material the device is made from contains a quasi-permanent electrical charge, and the rain is merely what triggers the flow of energy, according to research published last week in the journal Nature.
The real trick will be finding a way to turn this technology into something that might be viable for people’s homes — for now, it’s not reliable enough to deliver a continuous supply of power, as it needs to charge up before it can let out another burst.
In the meantime, Engadget suggests, it could serve as a small, temporary power source on futuristic water bottles or umbrellas.