New Technology Cleans Solar Panels to Enhance Efficiency

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A technology in development that uses electric fields to sweep dust from solar panels has promise as a new self-cleaning solar panel system designed to enhance energy efficiency and reduce costs.

Solar Panels

An array of solar panels in a dust storm

The technology was created in the laboratory of Alex Orlov, professor in the  Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and is being further developed by a Stony Brook research team named SolarClear. The team has received a $150,000 grant from PowerBridge NY to advance the technology, which uses tiny inexpensive electrodes to produce the electric fields.

“We were inspired by NASA technology developed for Mars rovers and made it more practical for Earth applications,” Orlovs said.

The researchers are developing a manufacturing process of this self-cleaning system so it can be scaled up for practical applications. They will create a prototype of the technology and conduct in-fielding testing. Dust on solar panels can reduce output by plants by 10 percent and in desert regions up to 25 percent. According to Professor Orlov, the technology can potentially boost the output of solar panels and save millions of dollars in cleaning costs. The mission of PowerBridge NY is to turn innovations from academic research labs into viable cleantech businesses for New York State.

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