Revolutionary new solar PV panels harvest energy from rain as well as sunshine

In terms of renewable energy, solar power is really leading the charge for electricity generation in a lot of countries and is expanding at a steady rate.

In countries which receive plenty of sunshine, solar panels can be seen on many a roof top, and vast solar farms are springing up in farmers' fields as an innovative 'cash crop' alternative, as well as the gigantic arrays found in deserts where enough energy to power the world a few times over pours in daily from the sun.

However, in countries like the UK where the weather is a little more varied, although popular as a supplementary energy source which can seriously reduce domestic energy bills and generate an income from feed in tariffs, the potential of solar PV is slightly limited by levels of sunshine.

This could all be about to change, however, as a team of researchers from Ocean University in China have trialled a ground-breaking new photovoltaic technology which can harvest energy from the rain, day or night! 

The team have created a solar panel with a coating of graphene, a form of carbon which is created in layers just one atom thick. The graphene layer is enriched with electrons, which means that when rain water falls on the panels, the graphene attracts the positively charged ions in the rainwater and the minerals it contains, building up sufficient charge to generate electricity.

The result is a solar panel which can generate energy from rain as well as from sunshine, which is perfect for the inclement weather we have to contend with here. Although still in the development stages and not yet a marketable product, the panels are already harvesting energy from rainfall at a rate of over 6%, compared to the 22.5% of energy that solar PV panels harvest from the sunlight that falls on them.

This technology, when it reaches the market, could revolutionise the industry and impart a massive boost to the uptake of solar panel technology in more temperate climates, contributing significantly to a more sustainable energy future across Europe - come rain or shine!