Rain energy could become an emerging renewable fuel source

Rain energy could become an emerging renewable fuel source

February 20, 2020 1 By Julie Campbell

This electricity generation method has been gaining traction over the years and is starting to take off.

Rain energy hasn’t been taken nearly as seriously as other forms of renewable electricity generation such as solar, wind and tidal. However, that trend is starting to change as scientists examine the way power could be harnessed from this natural resource.

Water falling from the sky has considerable potential for electricity production.

Rain energy production involves harnessing the kinetic energy from falling raindrops so that it can be converted into usable electric energy.  The idea behind this concept is that surface charge builds on a device as it is struck by the falling raindrops. That surface charge is then discharged as the water spreads and connects two electrodes.

This oft-ignored power generation technique has considerable potential in parts of the world that see considerable rainfall every year. Attempts toward harnessing rain energy are already underway. Some of the most recent breakthroughs in this area have occurred in the United States and Hong Kong.

Researchers from those countries have managed to generate 140 volts of power (according to the original research paper) from a single raindrop. That is enough power to light 100 LED lights for a few moments.

Rain energy

While this concept is far from new, prior efforts to generate electricity using rainfall have produced limited results. This is primarily the result of the restrictions of the technology and materials that were used in the effort.

Generating rain energy has traditionally been a matter of using the triboelectric effect.

The triboelectric effect occurs when certain materials come in contact with each other, generate an electric charge, and are then separated. It is a type of static, low-charge electricity. Though the premise behind this method is a solid one, the technology and materials used to put it into action have had substantial limitations that have held back its viability.

That said, the research team behind the latest form of raindrop electricity generation has moved the limits farther away. The team is composed of researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and from City University in Hong Kong. They worked in partnership for two years, examining and developing the energy density of what they refer to as a droplet electricity generator (DEG).


They used field-effect transistor designs to create the power generator. These are three-terminal devices that control electric current flow by way of an electric field. That design spiked the DEG energy density by 50 Watts per square meter. That represents several thousand times more electricity generation than other forms of rain energy power technology.

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