INNOVATION: Researchers develop technique to remove 98 per cent of solar panels dust – ET EnergyWorld
New Delhi: Taking a cue from the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf, researchers at Israel based Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev have shed new light on microscopic forces and mechanisms that can be optimized to remove dust from solar power panels to maintain efficiency and light absorption.
This new technique removes 98 per cent of dust particles. In a new study published in the journal ACS Langmuir the researchers confirmed that modifying the surface properties of solar panels may greatly reduce the amount of dust remaining on the surface, and significantly increase the potential of solar energy harvesting applications in the desert.
“Dust adhesion on solar panels is a major challenge to energy harvesting through photovoltaic cells. New solutions are necessary to maintain maximum collection efficiency in high dust density areas such as the Negev desert in Israel,” the university said in a statement.
Under natural conditions, the lotus leaf remains dust and pathogen free due to its nanotextured surface and a thin wax, hydrophobic coating that repels water. “In the desert, dust accumulates on the surface of solar cells and it is labor-intensive to clean them constantly, so we are trying to mimic this behaviour on a solar cell,” said Tabea Heckenthaler, a master’s student at the BGU Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research.
The researchers explored the effect of modifying a silicon substrate (Si), a semiconductor used in photovoltaic cells, to mimic the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf, as water rolls down the leaves and removes contamination. It is known that super-hydrophobicity reduces the friction between water droplets and the surface, thus allowing water drops to slide clean particles from surfaces.