Fake Grass Covered Roofs to Produce Energy

Margherita Olivo
January 21st 2016

The concept of using our rooftops to produce green, renewable energy for our houses is already very common if we look at solar panels. Now an international team of scientists is researching into the idea of carpeting roofs with plastic grass-like material instead. The plastic blades would be used as miniature wind turbines able to generate wind power for the home.

The process used is called turboelectric generator (TENG). The strips will be made of upright plastic artificial grass blades. Each blades will be coated with both nano wires on one side and with indium tin oxide on the other. The electric current will be generated as soon as the wind will blow on the blades. These will come in contact allowing electrons to transfer from blade to blade. It is called the triboelectric effect. This system they're trying would be especially suitable in areas where the wind is often changing direction, but also in locations where windmills are not practical. The team working on it is very international, coming from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US and the Southwest Jiaotong University in China.

“Compared with a wind turbine, our triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) is effective at harvesting the energy from natural wind blowing in any direction” said a reasercher to the New ScientistFernando Galembeck, who is investigating energy harvesting at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil, added that “significant amounts of power are obtained but we are still far from installing these devices on our rooftops and building walls".

The researchers predicted that a 300 m2 roof could produce about 7.11 kilowatts, this means that it could almost power an entire home. But before we get our hopes high they say that this concept is still far from being realized soon. They are trying to solve two major issues, firstly the storage of the energy produced, secondly they would need to find a replacement for indium tin oxide, which is both toxic and expensive. As Galembeck said: “The concept is highly promising but its realization depends on shifting to other materials".

Source: New Scientist. Image: Shutterstock

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