Washington: Scientists have discovered a new technology of ‘self-dusting solar panels’ that could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.
The technology is the one that was developed for space missions to Mars.
"We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems'' solar energy output," said study leader Malay K Mazumder.
“To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn't require water or mechanical movement," he added.
In sun-drenched areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel, the grime reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced.
Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.
"A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent," explained Mazumder.
The new method involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels.
Sensors monitor dust levels, and when its concentration reaches a critical level, the material is energized, creating an electric charge that repels the dust wave.
"Less than 0.04 percent of global energy production is derived from solar panels, but if only four percent of the world's deserts were dedicated to solar power harvesting, our energy needs could be completely met worldwide. This self-cleaning technology can play an important role," concluded Mazumdar.
First Published: Monday, August 23, 2010, 11:21