Glass coating lets solar panels absorb light from multiple angles, clean themselves

solar panels on roof
CC BY 2.0 joncallas

When considering putting solar panels on your home or business, one of the major considerations is where to place the panels and at what angle to get the most energy from the panels. There are energy auditors that can come and tell you where to place panels on your home and how big to go and there is an increasing amount of apps that do that for you as well.

Google has a website called Project Solar that analyzes how homeowners can go solar and what the costs and benefits will be that currently covers nine regions of the U.S. and much of the data comes down to how suitable your roof is for harnessing solar energy.

But what if the solar panels themselves could capture solar energy from multiple angles at once so that a home or business's potential solar energy capacity doesn't rely on the roof's angle?

Researchers from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan's National Central University have developed a special glass coating they say could allow solar panels to absorb light from many angle and boost the efficiency and energy output of the panels.

The coating is made of a fused-silica packaging glass that features both tiny nanorod structures and large honeycomb-shaped nanowalls. The combination of those two structures captures and scatters light in a way that boosts solar cell efficiency. The American Chemical Society says, "The cell efficiency can be boosted by 5.2 to 27.7 percent, depending on the angle of the light, and the efficiency enhancement can be up to 46 percent during long-term use."

The coating also carries another benefit. It helps the panels stay clean. The glass effectively repels dust and pollution and in the lab panels maintained 98.8 percent of their efficiency after six weeks of outdoor use. Most solar panels need regular cleaning to keep them running at optimal efficiency. A dust repelling coating can make solar panels run better and for longer.

Glass coating lets solar panels absorb light from multiple angles, clean themselves
The coating greatly increases the efficiency of traditional solar panels.

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