Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working on a glass coating that makes solar panels more efficient. The coating is anti-reflective and water-repellant.
Water bounces off the coating, carrying dirt with it and cleaning the surface. The coating does not reflect light, and for solar panels, reflecting less sunlight means a 3 to 6 percent increase in light-to-electricity conversion efficiency and power output of the solar cells. The water-repelling and self-cleaning properties could also substantially reduce maintenance and operating costs of solar panels.
The new coating is manufactured by first depositing a thin layer of glass on another glass surface. Then chemical etching and heat create a porous three-dimensional network of high-strength glass that resembles microscopic coral.
The coating can be fabricated through standard industry techniques, making it easy and inexpensive to scale up and apply to many types of glass. And it’s much more durable than existing glass coatings, according to DOE. Other methods involve plastics and powders, which aren’t very durable. In contrast, the new coating is made from glass, which can withstand much more abuse from impact and temperature.