Smart Coatings for Enhanced Efficiency and Low Maintenance Solar Panels

Technology Overview

Under current technologies, solar panels are very durable and can last some 25 years. However, maintenance is required throughout the panel’s lifetime to alleviate soiling on the panels so as to maintain its specified output. This maintenance can become costly especially if the panels are deployed in remote regions or if soiling is particularly heavy. For example, Middle Eastern locations where sandstorms and arid weather is common, using water to clean panels can be a difficult task. This is also a problem in urban places like Singapore, where labour cost is high and water a similarly precious resource.

Applying a self-cleaning coating onto the solar panel will significantly reduce these costs and increase the return on investments from deploying solar panels. A self-cleaning coating works by breaking down organic materials (bird droppings, hydrocarbon pollution etc.) that is usually sticky by nature by creating a water-loving surface to allow rain or other water sources to easily wash them off naturally, without scrubbing or scraping, keeping the coated surface clean.

However, challenges remain for the current self-cleaning coating products in the market. Solution-based coatings tend to be less durable, as they do not bond to a surface well enough to last the lifetime of a solar panel and must be re-applied regularly. Coatings that are applied using vapour phase processes could significantly reduce the light transmission of the substrate, adversely affecting the power output of a solar panel.

This coating technology offers high transmission in addition to superior bonding to the surface, allowing it to last well beyond the lifetime of solution-based coatings.

Technology Features & Specifications

  • Multi-layer coating through physical vapour deposition (PVD)
  • Tunable layers for increased light transmission, self-cleaning effect and colour effects
  • Visible and NIR light transmission (400-1000 nm): ~90%
  • Durable: Minimal change in light transmission after 150 cycles of oscillating sand abrasion
  • Water contact angle: 0-10°
  • Higher power output over usage period as compared to other coatings available in the market

Potential Applications

  • Solar panels
  • Building façade, windows
  • Vehicle windscreens
  • Aquariums
  • Any surface requiring transparent, anti-soiling/fouling glazing

Customer Benefits

  • Lower maintenance and material costs
  • Lower water consumption for cleaning stains
  • Higher power output over time

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