One night, 14-year-old Raymond Wang lay in bed trying to come up with a design for a science project. The rain was slapping the roof of his Vancouver home pretty hard and the loud noise gave Wang an idea. Maybe he could capture the rain hitting the roof and use it as a source of energy.
Wang's idea turned into an energy collector that he calls the "weather harvester." The device takes energy from rain or snow and turns it into electricity that is stored on a capacitor. Wang entered the project in the Google Science Fair and now he is one of the finalists in the competition.
So how did he build the device?
To start, Wang began researching piezoelectric materials, which convert kinetic energy into electric current. After comparing a number of different materials, he settled on polyvinylidene fluoride because he says it is sensitive enough to collect energy from things like wind and rain.
Then Wang created a model roof to test how the electricity would be captured.
The Vancouver Sun reports:
"Wang used a sheet of piezoelectric plastic polyvinylidene fluoride to make a small roof about the size of a piece of letter-sized paper which he connected to a rectifier that he assembled from four diodes that converts the AC power generated to DC power that he could then store with a capacitor.
"In short, the stored electricity powers an LED light."
The weather harvester was also subjected to real-life outdoor tests under a variety of weather conditions. Wang's research showed that the idea was feasible for collecting energy.
"My idea envisions piezoelectric materials to be a potential replacement for traditional rooftop houses in the future," Wang said in a presentation video.
Photo via flickr/Erich Ferdinand