Solar energy is about to get a whole lot better.
Chinese researchers have discovered that coating a flexible solar cell in a thin layer of electron-enriched Graphene lets the chemicals in raindrops (such as salt) interact with the Graphene coating. When the rain's positively charged ions meet the electron-rich Graphene surface, it forms a double layer on top of the solar cell. This double layer is known as a pseudocapacitor. (The process is known as the Lewis acid-base interaction) The energy difference between the two layers is strong enough to generate an electric current. The solar cell panel takes over from there.
For areas that where sunlight is intermittent or not strong enough, the new Graphene technology can increase the output of a solar panel energy system considerably. As new structures are constructed, these all-weather solar energy panels will become more useful in many more environments.
Even better, Graphene is made from carbon - the fourth most abundant material in the world, which makes it ecologically friendly and sustainable. Graphene is also the thinnest compound know to man, at only one atom think but is up to 300 times stronger than steel, and is the best conductor of energy known. Read more about Graphene here - it is fascinating.