New coating for solar panels developed by researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has shown the remarkable ability to repel various types of liquids, including water, as well as solid particles, which are known to reduce energy efficiency.
The development, funded by Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy SunShot Concentrating Solar Power Program of the Department of Energy, is expected to lower the costs associated with maintenance and operation and to boost efficiency.
The US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act sets quite an extensive number of regulations to be met, in order for a solar panel coating to be effective. These include the combination of particles and organics that can be used in the coating, and the size of these particles in particular. In addition, the final product should be superhydrophobic in order to reduce the need of cleaning and last but not least, it should not interfere with the transmission and scattering of radiation from the sun.
The team began by examining the different mixes and sizes of organics and silica particles in order to achieve the optimal coverage of the area. Once they found the winning combination, the researchers perfected the superhydrophobic properties of the coating and achieved a loss of transparency of only 0.3%. They then exposed the new coating to hundreds of hours of UV radiation, salt fog, sand and dust and observed that there was no change in any of the properties of the material, these being the optical transmission and the attachment of the particles to the coating.
The results were incredible. Not only that the coating was found to be extremely effective, and particularly useful for panels in harsh environments, but also the technology proved to be suitable for coatings on roofs, anti-icing and anti-condensation coatings for heating systems.
The next step that the team will take in the coming year would be to perfect and optimize the coating, and take it to the field for real testing procedures.
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