August 23, 2010

Covering makes for self-dusting solar cells

Periodically jolt the top of a solar cell and you have a solar cell that cleans itself.

Carefully tuned pulses of electricity produce traveling waves on the top electrodes of solar cells. These waves can push 90% of dust particles off the edges of the cells.

A dust layer of 4 grams per square meter reduces a solar cell's conversion efficiency by 40%, according to the researchers who developed the system. Solar cells collect about 17 grams per square meter over the course of a month in Arizona, according to the researchers.

The technology could lower maintenance costs and keep solar cells running at close to peak efficiency, especially for large solar farms in desert environments.

Research paper:
Self-cleaning photovoltaic panels with integrated transparent electrodynamic screens: Dust adhesion and removal mechanism
240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), August 22, 2010, Boston, Massachusetts

Researchers' contact:
Malay Mazumder

Related stories and briefs:
Bugs inspire better solar cell coatings -- related research

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