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Coating Could Improve Solar Panels

Friday, December 18, 2015

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A new nanocoating that aims to make residential solar panels generate power more efficiently in any direction has been developed.

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan’s National Central University have come up with a glass coating that can help underlying solar cells get the most sunlight from multiple angles, according to a statement from the American Chemistry Society.

The researchers—Jr-Hau He, Kun-Yu Lai and colleagues—recently had their findings published in the December edition of ACS Nano.

©iStock.com / John Verner

Researchers have developed a nanocoating for glass that could be used to help stationary, residential solar panels collect the most sunlight possible to be more efficient.

The nanocoating is made from fused-silica packaging glass fabricated with a hierarchical structure by integrating ultrathin nanorods and honeycomb nanowalls structures, researchers said. While the nanorods help increase efficiency of light-harvesting through their wavelength, the scattering ability of the honeycomb nanowalls further improve efficiency, the team reported.

Coating Benefits

The researcher’s report, “Packaging Glass with a Hierarchically Nanostructured Surface: A Universal Method to Achieve Self-Cleaning Omnidirectional Solar Cells,” demonstrates that cell efficiency can be increased by 5.2 percent to 27.7 percent, depending on the angle of the light, according to the statement.

Researchers said the efficiency enhancement can be up to 46 percent during long-term use of the solar panels. The nanocoating also repelled dust and pollution that would otherwise block some rays from getting absorbed and converted to electricity.

That means the panels are also self-cleaning, the statement said.

The new glass nanocoating kept panels working outdoors at optimum levels for six weeks, while the efficiency of panels with an unmodified coating dropped over the same period, the researchers said.

Homeowner Improvement

The team said that the findings are significant to homeowners. Unlike some solar panels used on commercial buildings, residential panels are usually stationary.

A report issued in 2013 had suggested that homeowners install solar panels to face toward the west in order to maximize their efficiency.

©iStock.com / MadamLead

The nanocoating can reportedly increase solar energy efficiency between 5.2 percent to 27.7 percent as well as keep 98.8 percent of dust particles off the panels.

But, as researchers note, solar panel positioning is not that simple. Even when homeowners get the positioning correct, residential panels do not have a way to be able to track the sun’s light as it passes over the Earth throughout the day. Solar panel efficiency also depends on location.

The nanocoating also has a second benefit with its self-cleaning abilities. When the panels could not absorb light as well, the panels lost some of their energy-production efficiency, researchers said. The new coating can repel 98.8 percent of dust particles, the report indicates.

Researchers did not say when the coating might be available in the commercial market.

   

Tagged categories: Glass coatings; Green coatings; Nano and hybrid coatings; Nanotechnology; Renewable raw materials; Solar; Solar energy

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