A University of Houston researcher has developed a nanoparticle coating for solar panels that makes it easier to keep the panels clean, maintaining their efficiency for longer and reducing the maintenance and operations costs.
The patent-pending coating developed by physics professor Seamus "Shay" Curran, director of UH's Institute for NanoEnergy, has successfully undergone testing at the Dublin Institute for Technology and will undergo field trials being conducted by an engineering firm in North Carolina.
Curran said the June testing in Ireland and the field trials being done at Livingston & Haven in Charlotte, N.C., represent significant steps forward in moving the coating and a related technology to the marketplace. A demonstration of the coating was conducted Friday (Aug. 10) at Livingston & Haven.
The Self-Cleaning Nano Hydrophobic (SCNH107TM) layer has been licensed by C-Voltaics from UH. C-Voltaics, a start-up energy 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 a "Storm Cell." a transportable energy generator with unique patent-pending designs and engineering aspects that was also developed by Curran at UH.
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. Curran's coating acts as a barrier protection against these pollutants.
The nano-thin coating repels dust, pollen, water and other particles without hindering the solar panel's ability to absorb sunlight. The coating can maintain this ideal hydrophobic surface for years, reducing overall maintenance.
"A dirty solar panel can reduce its power capabilities by up to 30 percent," Curran said. "The coating essentially makes the panel self-cleaning."
While the coating is designed for use on solar panels, Curran believes it could also have widespread applications as an anti-corrosive coating for other materials.
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.
Curran developed the coating in conjunction with his work on building transportable, off-grid solar-powered generator for residential and commercial use.
Curran's development of the storm cell system stems from his family's experience during Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Curran, his wife and three young sons stocked up and hunkered down as Ike approached the Texas coast. They woke up the next morning after the storm passed with the house intact, but powerless.
"My wife said to me, 'How long have you been working in solar energy? The sun is shining but we don't have any electricity. Why don't you build us a portable solar unit for the next time this happens?'"
The dutiful husband did as he was asked.
The solar-powered Storm Cell is designed to be used much in the same way as a diesel generator, except it's quiet and has no emissions. It consists of a square storage trailer with solar panels attached to retractable arms that can be manually unfurled as needed and then stored inside the trailer.
The unit built by Curran and his team produces 2-to-5 kilowatts and charges a backup battery. That's enough power for an air-conditioning system, some light and a TV. But Livingston & Haven has built an even larger unit that could fully power a 3,000-square-foot house. Curran said there also are a number of commercial uses for the generators such as oil and gas drill sites and farms.
The generator system will be engineered and sold by C-Voltaics and Livingston & Haven.
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. Researchers are trying to improve their efficiency in terms of storage capability so that they are competitive with silicon cells.
Curran also has created several innovations that relate to the next generation of solar devices used to produce electricity. These devices are all plastic, as opposed to the current devices that use silicon or metal alloys, which take up space and can be costly.
Laura Tolley | EurekAlert!
InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light
05.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
01.12.2016 | University of California - Riverside
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering