Hybrid Solar-Wind Energy Generator May Power Smart Cities
Joan Thompson posted on June 08, 2016 |
IoT can make cities greener. How do we power it? With green technology of course.
LEDs are powered inside a model home that has a hybrid solar and wind energy generator on the roof. (Image courtesy of the American Chemical Society.)

LEDs are powered inside a model home that has a hybrid solar and wind energy generator on the roof. (Image courtesy of the American Chemical Society.)

The Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up a whole new way to make cities more sustainable. The IoT consists of an extensive network of sensors embedded in devices and infrastructure, allowing for more control over energy efficiency. In fact, IoT can even help to lower green house gas emissions in cities.

While IoT can be used as a green technology, it also needs power, ideally not from fossil fuels. The best-case scenario would be that the electrical power is generated right in the city, and that it is 100-percent renewable.

As one can imagine, integrating renewable energy generators into bustling downtown hubs is challenging. For the most part, solar energy is the primary renewable source that is tapped into for providing energy to homes and offices.

Wind energy turbines, however, are a different story. While solar panels can be installed on rooftops without much hassle, there aren’t many convenient places to install high-rising turbines. As a result, lots of potential wind energy that passes through cities is wasted.

A research team from China and the United States has decided to come up with a way to harness this power source, developing a flat-shaped, hybrid solar-wind energy device.

Hybrid Solar-Wind Generator for IoT Power Solutions

The device is a silicon solar cell and a nanogenerator that can convert wind energy into electrical output. The nanogenerator is based on the triboelectric effect, or the same scientific process behind static electricity. 

This component of the device is made up of two sheets of different kinds of plastic separated by air. Wind blowing on the generator vibrates the sheets, which generates the electricity. Solar cells are then fixed on top of the device.

Tests of the 120-mm x 22-mm x 4-mm device showed that the solar cell component can deliver 8 mW of solar power, while the wind power component can deliver 26 mW. The research team found that four of these devices can power LEDs in a model home and a temperature-humidity sensor. 

Though this isn’t a lot of power, multiple generators on a wide scale may add to a promising amount of energy savings, depending on how they are implemented.

“Large-scale installation of the hybridized nanogenerators on the roofs of the city buildings can maximize solar and wind energy scavenging in city environments,” as said in a statement released by the team of researchers. The institutions behind the project include the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

To learn more about the device, see the full report of the study, published in ASC Nano.

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