Power boosting self-cleaning solar panels

Nov 22, 2013

High-power, self-cleaning solar panels might be coming soon to a roof near you. There are two obvious problems with photovoltaic cells, solar panels. First, they are very shiny and so a lot of the incident sunlight is simply reflected back into the sky rather than being converted into electricity. Secondly, they get dirty with dust and debris caught on the wind and residues left behind by rain and birds. Now, research published in the International Journal of Nanomanufacturing suggests that it might be possible to add a nanoscopic relief pattern to the surface of solar cells that makes them non-reflective significantly boosting efficiency and at the same time making them highly non-stick and self-cleaning.

Zuobin Wang of Changchun University of Science and Technology (China), Jin Zhang of Xi'an Technological University (China) and colleagues at Cardiff University (UK), who are partners of the EU FP7 LaserNaMi project, have devised an approach to lithography, the process used to "print" , that allows them to add a pattern to the of a solar cell. The features of the pattern are so small that individual parts are shorter than the wavelength of light. This means that incident sunlight becomes trapped rather than reflected passing on more of its energy to electricity-generation process that takes place within the panel.

The same pattern also makes the surface of the solar cell behave like the surface of a lotus leaf, a natural material that is known to be very water repellant, or hydrophobic, so that particles and liquids that land on it do not become stuck as there is no surface to which the droplets can grip. When it rains any deposits are sloughed away and the rainwater runs off efficiently leaving the panel clean and dry after the downpour.

The team's work indicates that a patterned layer on top of the active part of the panel can avoid the energy losses due to reflection from the surface. It directly boosts absorption of sunlight in the visible spectrum and into the near-infrared part of the spectrum, all of which contributes to a boost to the overall electrical efficiency of the panel. The team suggests that printing the surface of the so that it is covered with nanoscopic cones would provide the optimal combination of making the panel non-reflective and hydrophobic and so self-cleaning.

Explore further: Renewable energy companies use new clout in statehouses

More information: "Nanoscale structures for implementation of anti-reflection and self-cleaning functions" in Int. J. Nanomanufacturing, 2013, 9, 520-531.

Related Stories

'Cleaning' boosts solar cell efficiency

Sep 13, 2013

Energy losses in nanowire solar cell can be significantly reduced by 'cleaning' the surface of the cells with a special etching method. This has been shown by researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology ...

Recommended for you

Renewable energy companies use new clout in statehouses

Dec 24, 2014

Earlier this year, Ohio became the first state to freeze a scheduled increase in the amount of electricity that must be generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources. The move gave advocates of repealing states' mandatory ...

America's place in the sun: Energy report sets goal

Dec 24, 2014

A recent energy report said that America should build on the recent growth in solar energy by setting a goal of obtaining at least 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030. "Star Power: The ...

Nevada, feds to study nuke-waste burial in state

Dec 23, 2014

Nevada and the federal government are agreeing to have a panel keep studying whether the U.S. will bury radioactive material from Tennessee at a former nuclear weapons proving ground north of Las Vegas.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Soylent_Grin
5 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2013
I wonder if this technology could save future Spirit rovers from dying.

In finding out which one died to make this comment, it still struck me how amazing it is that Opportunity is still chugging along!
NikFromNYC
1 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2013
(1) When does it rain often in deserts?

(2) Unless the transparent coating is elastic/rubbery, windy desert sandblasting will abrade them which is why for instance, the Smooth-On resin company sells UV cured elastomeric silanes to coat solar panels:
http://www.smooth...dex.html

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.