New glass coating could lead to omnidirectional solar panels
It's important to give careful consideration to the direction that rooftop solar panels are facing in order to pull maximum energy from the sun, but a new type of material might mean their orientation is less of a concern. Researchers have developed a special glass coating they claim could enable panels to soak up sunlight from multiple angles, significantly boosting the cell efficiency and energy yields in the process.
Electrical engineers from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan's National Central University have fabricated fused-silica packaging glass in a way that reportedly enhances its properties as a coating for silicon solar cells.
The glass coating features a hierarchical structure that sees small, ultrathin nanorods and larger honeycomb-shaped nanowalls integrated into the material. The team says a subwavelength feature of the nanorods combined with an efficient scattering ability of the nanowalls makes for an enhanced conversion efficiency of anywhere between 5.2 and 27.7 percent, depending on the angle of the light.
Further to its impressive harvesting ability at multiple angles, the glass also proved to be rather adept at keeping itself clean. It repelled dust and pollution well enough to maintain 98.8 percent of its efficiency after six weeks of outdoor use.
The research was published in the journal ACS Nano.
Source: American Chemical Society
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Remains to be seen if alignment and tracking becomes so efficient that the extra cost for the equipment, and mechanisms can be done away with. Especially if they can develop a 180 degree beaded tip to the rod ends to capture every possible angle to avoid having to move the array. Self cleaning is also the way to go, nature does it...