Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – 3D Printed Device Creates Energy From Falling Snow

A new type of device is being developed by a team of engineers at University of California, Los Angeles that can create energy from falling snow. The device named snow TENG, which stands for snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, creates a charge through static electricity. The device, comprised of a layer of silicone and a specialized electrode, was made using 3D printing methods, making it low cost to produce. The team hopes the device will have many applications, from solar panels to winter sport athletics. 

 

Hiking shoe with device attached
Hiking shoe with device attached
Credit: UCLA

“Static electricity occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons,” says Richard Kaner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, at the University of California, Los Angeles and senior author of the project. “You separate the charges and create electricity out of essentially nothing.”

 

From the University of California, Los Angeles article: "Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons. Silicone — a synthetic rubber-like material that is composed of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, combined with carbon, hydrogen and other elements — is negatively charged. When falling snow contacts the surface of silicone, that produces a charge that the device captures, creating electricity.

'Snow is already charged, so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?' said co-author Maher El-Kady, a UCLA assistant researcher of chemistry and biochemistry.

'While snow likes to give up electrons, the performance of the device depends on the efficiency of the other material at extracting these electrons,' he added. 'After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material.'”

 

Read more about the device that generates electricity from falling snow at UCLA