Manual cleaning of solar panels. Image: Panumas Yanuthai Shutterstock
A new European research project has developed a self-cleaning photovoltaic coating technology capable of improving the efficiency of solar modules by 4%. Cleaning the solar panels is done in this easy and inexpensive way.
Air pollution is putting great pressure on photovoltaics. According to recent research, the accumulation of particles on the surface of solar cells can seriously contribute to the reduction of energy production in percentages even higher than 25%, causing a great loss of efficiency. However, keeping solar panels clean is challenging – regular cleaning and maintenance is very expensive and a lot of water is wasted. Here you can see an example.
Manual cleaning of photovoltaic solar panels. Image: Panumas Yanuthai Shutterstock
A team of international researchers is working on the development of a solution through the SolaSharc project. The initiative, funded by the European Union through Horizon 2020, has developed a photovoltaic coating that can easily remove dirt, while improving the energy efficiency and aesthetic quality of the modules.
The roof element takes its name from the project itself and is an organic-inorganic hybrid element only a few microns thick. Based on a network of multifunctional silica nanoparticles, Solar Sharc® is stable even at temperatures above 100 ° C and highly repellent to water and solid contaminants (such as dust, particles or sand), without losing resistance.
Self-cleaning surfaces – the researchers explain – tend to be brittle, prone to erosion and not very resistant to weathering. The next step forward for Solar Sharc® is to identify hydrophobic functional groups together with active functional groups on nanostructured particles […] creating a resistant, durable and transparent coating.
In addition, the anti-reflective properties of Solar Sharc® improve transmittance, so that more than 93% of all available light can reach the semiconductor.
The markets to which the project is directed are industrial scale and photovoltaic integrated in buildings. The partners expect to commercialize the coating and the new self-cleaning PV modules in 2019.
The Spanish company Solar Onyx, the Finnish Millidyne Oy, Opus Materials Technologies from the United Kingdom and the French Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies participate in the project.