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The pitter-patter of raindrops on a plastic panel could be a new source of electricity thanks to work done by researchers at France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Grenoble. While humans have harnessed the power of rain for thousands of years, energy is usually extracted from rainwater as it flows downhill in a river or stream. Now, Jean-Jacques Chaillout and colleagues have created a panel that converts the impact energy of falling raindrops directly into electricity. Their device uses a plastic called polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) that vibrates when struck by raindrops.
Shoving electrodes into tree trunks to harvest electricity may sound like the stuff of dreams, but the idea is increasingly attracting interest. If we can make it work, forests could power their own sensor networks to monitor the health of the ecosystem or provide early warning of forest fires. Children the world over who have tried the potato battery experiment know that plant material can be a source of electricity.
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