For the first time, scientists have merged energy-harvesting solar cell and nanogenerator technologies to convert wind power into electricity — and potentially power the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is aimed at making cities “smarter” through connecting an expansive network of small communications devices for greater efficiency, said researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States and National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing, China.

This goal, however, requires plenty of energy, which could increase global fossil fuel dependence. The challenge is to have sustainable energy generation in cities — with none of the space-intensive wind turbines, for instance — where the devices will be positioned.

Ya Yang, Zhong Lin Wang, and their colleagues then produced a device able to harvest both solar and wind energy and helps power these smart cities, which are predicted to harbor billions of gadgets within the IoT in just a matter of five years.

The researchers integrated two energy capabilities in one for the first time: a silicon solar cell and a nanogenerator for converting wind energy into electrical output.

They said that the solar cell provides 8 milliWatts (mW) of power, while the wind-harvesting part offers up to 26 mW. A single mW is estimated to light up 100 small LEDs.

Under conditions simulating wind and sun, four devices situated on a model home’s roof are expected to power the LEDs inside as well as a temperature-humidity sensor. The hybrid device is said to power smart cities too when installed in huge numbers on actual rooftops.

The findings were discussed in the journal ACS Nano.

Recently, there are major headways made in the field of renewable energy, such as Portugal running entirely on hydro, wind and solar power for about 107 hours straight during the second week of May. Three years earlier, the country was generating a mere 7.5 percent of electricity from wind, now extending the capacity to 22 percent.

Solar energy is particularly on the rise, likely going mainstream as the capacity expands tenfold within just seven years.

“By the end of 2020, the amount of installed solar capacity will be 300 percent higher than today," said Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association.

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