A University of Houston scientist has developed a nano-thin coating for solar panels that repels dust, pollen and other particles without sacrificing the panel’s ability to absorb light.
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“A dirty solar panel can reduce its power capabilities by up to 30 percent,” said physics professor Seamus Curran, who led development of the coating. “The coating essentially makes the panel self-cleaning.”
Curran is also the director of UH’s Institute for NanoEnergy.
The patent-pending Self-Cleaning Hydrophobic Nanocoating (SCHN) performed well in testing in June at the Dublin Institute for Technology and is scheduled for field trials by an engineering firm (Livingston & Haven) in Charlotte, NC, according to the university.
Curran said the testing and field trials represented significant steps forward in moving the coating and a related technology to the marketplace.
Protecting Against Pollutants
Solar panels need to have a clean surface to efficiently gather light from the sun, but they are often soiled by dust, pollen, water and other particles, scientists note.
|The self-cleaning hydrophobic nanocoating does not sacrifice the panel’s ability to absorb light, Curran says.|
Curran’s coating acts as a barrier protection against these pollutants and can maintain its ideal hydrophobic surface for years, reducing overall maintenance, authorities said.
Although designed for use on solar panels, the technology has potential for widespread applications as an anti-corrosive coating for other materials, said Curran.
Curran developed the coating in conjunction with his work in building transportable, off-grid solar-powered generator for residential and commercial use, the university said.
Licensing and Marketing
The coating layer has been licensed by C-Voltaics, a start-up energy company, led by Curran as CEO.
The company, dedicated to the generation of more practical clean energy for use in off-grid and on-grid applications, will oversee marketing of the coating and related technology known as a “Storm Cell.”
The Storm Cell is a transportable energy generator with unique patent-pending designs and engineering aspects that was also developed by Curran at UH.
UH is a shareholder in C-Voltaics, which focuses on using technology to alleviate the significant costs of solar energy service and maintenance, which are key issues in solar energy generation and storage.
“This is where you see the university transitioning a technology from the lab to the community and making an economic impact,” Curran said.
In addition to the nanocoating and “Storm Cell” generator, Curran also has created several innovations that relate to the next generation of solar devices used to produce electricity. These devices are plastic, as opposed to the current devices that use silicon or metal alloys, which take up space and can be costly.
The university said Curran has been involved in solar energy research for many years and also has been working on improving the efficiency of thin-film solar cells in terms of storing solar energy.
“Thin-film solar cells are lightweight, durable and easy to use,” the university said. Researchers, like Curran, are trying to improve their efficiency in terms of storage capability so that they are competitive with silicon cells.