A team from Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) developed an anti-reflective, water repellent, self-cleaning, highly durable and fog resistant coating for solar panels. The coating comprises of nanoscale pores surrounded by a nanostructured silica framework, which have shown to improve the efficiency of the solar cells by up to 6%. The results from the study appear in the latest issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
The inspiration for the incredible properties of the new coating comes from nature. The water repellent and self-cleaning abilities resemble those of Lotus leaves, which use rain for self-cleaning. The authors point out that the surface should be angled at about 150 degrees, causing the water drops to bounce off and take dust along with them.
The boost of efficiency comes from an anti-reflective technology that resembles the eyes of moths in functionality and structure. Thanks to advances in nanotechnology, the team was able to engineer precisely the nanoscale structures.
Solar developments inspired by moths’ eyes, or at least the concept behind these developments, have been around for quite some. Back in 2008 already, scientists from University of California, Riverside, established the incredible anti-reflection properties of the eyes of the little insects, and found the principle highly appropriate for solar cells. The subject went silent for a while until only a few months ago, when a team from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore published their successful findings, yet again showing the potential of moths’ eyes– inspired solar coating.
None of the previous developments has been translated into a viable technology, nor has the latest concept by the guys ORNL. The race is on, we just need to wait and which team will be able to perfect the coating and hit the market first.
Image (c) ORNL