Research Spotlight Archive
Title: Self-Cleaning Solar Panels for Desert Installations
Funding: United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Background: Large photovoltaic solar installations require clean panels to maximize light utilization. Dust deposition obscures solar flux, significantly reducing power yield. Deserts have abundant sunlight but almost no water and plenty of dust. Dust can be a showstopper when it comes to solar power.
Description: We are developing electrostatic technology for the automatic and continuous removal of dust from solar panels without requiring water or moving parts. Using the well-known electrodynamic screen, we are developing methods for the inexpensive, durable and low-power utilization of this technology in large solar installations.
Results: We are investigating the use of flash vacuum-arc coatings of such materials as indium-tin oxide for the needed electrodes, as well as direct printing via an inkjet printer using carbon nanotube ink. We are also developing electronics based on half resonant circuits that will produce the high voltage needed by the electrodynamic screen from the low voltage available from the solar panel. Lastly, we are engaged in detailed theoretical modeling of the dust removal process so that we can optimize electrode geometry and voltage parameters.