JERUSALEM, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have developed a method for removing dust from solar panels using nanowires, the Ben Gurion University (BGU) in southern Israel reported Tuesday.
In a study published in the journal Langmuir, an Israeli team took a cue from the self-cleaning properties of the lotus leaf, shedding light on microscopic forces and mechanisms that can be optimized to remove the dust, maintaining efficiency and light absorption.
Dust adhesion on solar panels is a major challenge to energy harvesting through photovoltaic cells, and new solutions are necessary to maintain maximum collection efficiency in high dust density areas, especially deserts.
The Israeli researchers confirmed that modifying the surface properties of solar panels could greatly reduce the amount of dust remains.
In nature, the lotus leaf remains dust and pathogen free due to its nanotextured surface, and a thin wax, hydrophobic coating that repels water.
Thus, the researchers explored the effect of modifying a silicon substrate (Si), a semiconductor used in photovoltaic cells, to mimic the leaf's self-cleaning, as water rolls down the leaves and removes contamination.
To shed light on these forces and the effect of nanotexture on them, the researchers prepared four silicon-based samples relevant to solar panels.
It was found that particle removal was 98 percent on one of the samples - the super-hydrophobic Si-based nanotextured surface.
"We determined that the reason for the increased particle removal is not low friction between the droplets and the super-hydrophobic surfaces, rather it is the increase of forces that can detach particles from the surfaces," the researchers explained.
These experimental methods can be implemented to engineer self-cleaning surfaces exhibiting different chemistries or textures, they added.