Researchers have developed a new technique to clean solar panels without water

Researchers have developed a new technique to clean solar panels without water

In order to optimize the performance of solar panels, their surface must be as clean as possible. However, their outward exposure and near-horizontal orientation make them particularly vulnerable to dust. It should now be possible to clean them using the properties of static electricity instead of water.

Normally maintenance of the surface of solar panels is done with water to avoid scratches that could damage them. That cleaning is essential to ensure maximum reception of the sun’s rays on the cells.
But the use of water in large quantities to carry out this maintenance poses a problem, especially in desert areas, but more generally in terms of conservation resources and from thevicinity.

Also read: Cleaning photovoltaic panels

A challenge that researchers at MIT have accepted

Cleaning the plates without water while not scratching the surface is quite a challenge that a team of American researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (WITH). According to their observations, an accumulation of 5 milligrams of dust per square centimeter causes a 50% loss of production.

The results of their research, published March 11, 2022 in the journal ScienceAdvance, could save millions of liters of water every year worldwide. We had already presented a solution developed by the University of Stony Brook in New York that uses an electrostatic foil to prevent dust from accumulating on the panels. The MIT team also uses the properties of electrostatics, but differently.

Effect of dust accumulation on the production of a solar module.

The system works in two stages. The dust, which mainly consists of silica particles, is initially loaded with aluminum and zinc oxide. Then an electric field caused by the passage of a live metal plate or rod across the plates causes the dust to move.

Also read: Anti-dust solar panels coming soon?

A promising innovation to be developed

With this called methodElectrostatic induction“, the researchers claim to be able to recover 95% of the performance of the panels.
However, moisture is one of the keys to the success of the system. For the technology to be effective, the dust particles must be able to naturally adsorb the water vapor present in the atmosphere. But what about the desert regions? According to the study, even in such an environment, there is moisture in the air at night, which would still allow for static electricity.

This promising innovation, which has now been tested in the laboratory, still needs further development before it can be used on a large scale.

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