Embargoed for release: Sunday, August 22, 11:30 a.m., Eastern Time
Note to reporters: The full texts of these press releases, abstracts of presentations and non-technical summaries provided by scientists are available at Eurekalert at www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php and also at http://web.1.c2.audiovideoweb.com/1c2web3536/Boston2010/BostonReleases_Aug19.htm.
Find dusting those tables and dressers a chore or a bore? Dread washing the windows? Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That’s the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution — self-dusting solar panels — based on technology developed for space missions to Mars.
In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations. “We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems’ solar energy output,” study leader Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D. said. “Our technology can be used in both small- and large-scale photovoltaic systems. To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn’t require water or mechanical movement.”
The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen's edges. Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operation.