Nanocoatings for Solar Panel Efficiency Upgrade

March 2023
Popular Read

Embracing Superhydrophobic Nanocoatings means upgrading already operational solar installation to squeeze every bit of sunshine, making each panel work smarter, not harder, for its share of the sun.

Lotus Nano: Leading independent nanotech and nanocoating consulting in India.

Essentially

  • Emerging Technology: Superhydrophobic nanocoatings are a significant development success in nanotechnology world. Their unique characteristics, such as air-trapping nano-structures, make them favourable for numerous industrial applications.
  • Efficiency Enhancement: Operational solar panels, when retrofitted with special superhydrophobic coatings, can experience a boost in performance by up to 15%. This is achieved through the coatings' ability to repel dirt and water and other features, maintaining clean panel surfaces, thereby enhancing energy generation.
  • Operational Advantages: Apart from improved efficiency, these coatings offer added benefits like self-cleaning and anti-reflective properties. This reduces maintenance requirements and minimises light reflection/scattering, resulting in more efficient energy absorption.
  • Performance Tuning: Adjusting parameters such as surface roughness, coating thickness, and refractive index allows for customisation and optimisation of superhydrophobicity and light transmittance in accordance with specific site conditions of the solar/PV panels.
  • Next-Gens Coatings: Implementing low-refractive index, nano-porous coatings can add to the retrofit's efficacy by providing both self-cleaning and anti-reflective benefits. These advanced coatings represent an exciting prospect in the realm of solar panel retrofitting.

Brief
Introduction

Innovative superhydrophobic nanocoatings are ushering a new era in solar power generation. These coatings, applicable to operational panels, not only repel dirt and water but also reduce maintenance needs. Their unique characteristics embody anti-reflective properties and allow performance tuning for optimised light transmittance, intensifying solar energy output.

With cutting-edge nano-porous coatings paving the way, the dual benefit of self-cleaning and increased energy absorption is created. Discover how this transformative technology is catapulting solar panel retrofitting and efficiency towards a brighter and more sustainable future.

Benefits of Super-Hydrophobic Coatings

Superhydrophobic coatings offer a number of benefits for solar energy companies, including:

Super-
Hydrophobicity:
A Brief Intro

Hydrophobic

/hʌɪdrə(ʊ)ˈfəʊbɪk/

latin: "fear of water"

Hydrophobic is a property of a substance that repels water. Hydrophobic surfaces lack the affinity for water, and tending to repel or not to absorb water. Nature example: The "Lotus Leaf Effect". Super-Hydrophobicity offers an even stronger effect compared to hydrophobicity.

Superhydrophobic Nanocoatings on solar panels offer an effective self-cleaning effect due to the high degree of water repellency.
Superhydrophobic Nanocoatings on solar panels offer an effective self-cleaning effect due to the high degree of water repellency.

Superhydrophobic coatings are a relatively new and innovative nanotechnology that have gained immense popularity in recent years, becoming increasingly relevant in more and more industries. Thanks to their unique properties, these coatings have a wide range of potential uses in many different areas.

The science behind superhydrophobic coatings is fascinating and complex. As mentioned before, these coatings are made up of nanoscale structures that are designed to trap air between them. However, these structures can take many different shapes and forms, depending on their intended application. For example, some coatings may use a random distribution of nano-structures, while others may use a more organised pattern.

Concept: from super-hydrophobic to super-hydrophilic. This is how a drop of water behaves on different surface properties. Each can be achieved with specific nanocoatings.
Illustration: Observing the shift from super-hydrophobicity to super-hydrophilicity. Here's how a water droplet interacts with varying surface properties, achievable through specific nanocoatings. Each surface property has found countless uses in industries.
One of the most promising applications for superhydrophobic coatings is in the field of solar panels. By applying these coatings to the surface of solar panels, a thin layer is created that prevents water and dirt from sticking to the surface. This can lead to significant increases in the efficiency of the solar panels, as dirt and debris can significantly reduce their effectiveness.

Superhydrophobic coatings with self-cleaning and also anti-reflective properties can significantly improve the efficiency of solar panels by removing dust and other contaminants that otherwise reduce their performance. Accumulation of contaminants on the surfaces of panels is a major issue, decreasing their photovoltaic output performance. There are various coatings to address this, with a focus on coatings that not only enable self-cleaning properties but also minimise light scattering and reflection to improve light transmittance.

Precise control of the coatings' surface roughness, thickness and refractive index is required to balance super-hydrophobicity and high transmittance. Low-refractive index coatings with nano-porous networks have shown potential, demonstrating both antireflective and self-cleaning functionality.

The Lotus Leaf Effect
The Lotus Leaf Effect as the inspiration for engineered (super) hydrophobic nanocoatings: nothing sticks.

Research & Findings

Many solar energy operators and producers have already started using superhydrophobic coatings on their solar panels, with positive results. For example, a solar energy company in Arizona, USA, applied a superhydrophobic coating to test panels and found that it required 75% less cleaning than uncoated panels over the course of a year. Another solar energy company in Spain used a superhydrophobic coating on their solar panels and saw a 7% increase in energy output compared to uncoated panels.

Lotus Nano have also conducted or verified case study on how a KSA firm achieved a 13% increase in energy output, reduced water consumption to near-zero, and achieved a 50% reduction in cleaning cycles and cleaning time for a solar project. These are of cause extremely positive results and - you guessed it - clearly not the norm. But what we can say with confidence today after numerous trials and pilot projects especially in India that 3 to 6% performance gains are realistic including the cutting of water consumption by minimum 50%. This is considerable.

Read the Case Study

Application Procedure

Applying superhydrophobic nanocoating to solar panels involves a simple but not a trivial process.

First, the panels are cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust, dirt, or debris. Then, the nanocoating is sprayed onto the surface of the panels. There are a number of techniques. The panels are left to dry for a certain period of time, typically a few hours, before they can be tested for their water-repellent properties.

The thickness of the nanocoating layer can vary depending on the type and strength of the coating used. Generally, a thicker coating layer provides better water-repellent properties, but it may also affect the panels’ performance by reducing the amount of sunlight that can pass through the coating.

It’s therefore important to note that the application process of superhydrophobic nanocoating should be done by professionals to ensure the proper application to get the best results.

clean solar panels produce more.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

We've compiled some common questions that solar energy companies such as solar park operators or maintenance teams have asked us about superhydrophobic nanocoating:

What Is Superhydrophobic Nanocoating And How Does It Work

A Superhydrophobic nanocoating is a thin layer of nanoparticles that repels water and other liquids. The nanoparticles are structured in a way that creates tiny pockets of air between them, which prevents water droplets from sticking to the surface. When water comes into contact with a superhydrophobic surface, it beads up and rolls off, taking any dirt or debris with it.

How Long Does Super-Hydrophobic Nanocoating Last

The lifespan of superhydrophobic nanocoating depends on several factors, including the type of surface it’s applied to, the quality of the coating, and the environment in which it’s used. Generally, superhydrophobic nanocoating can last up to 10 years before it needs to be reapplied.

Are Superhydrophobic Nanocoating Ok For The Environment

Yes, superhydrophobic nanocoatings are generally environmentally friendly. Unlike some other types of coatings, those doesn’t contain harmful chemicals or pollutants that could harm the environment or wildlife. In addition, the coating can actually help to reduce the amount of water and cleaning chemicals needed to maintain solar panels, which can have a positive impact on the environment.

Can Super-Hydrophobic Nanocoatings Be Applied To All Types Of Solar Panels

Superhydrophobic nanocoating can be applied to most types of solar panels, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels. However, the coating may not be suitable for some specialised or highly textured panels, so it’s important to consult with a professional before applying the coating.

What's A Tilting Droplet Roll-Off Angle And Is It A Thing

Yes it is in most cases. The tilt or roll-off angle of water on a surface is an important factor in the world of nano coating. For optimal performance, superhydrophobic coatings are best applied on panels that are installed at a tilt angle greater than 10 degrees. The minimum sliding angle is the smallest angle at which water droplets will just start to slide down a surface. Below this angle, on flat surfaces like e.g. a flat-roof industrial estate, the droplets tend to bead up and evaporate, leaving dust and debris behind. This can reduce solar performance by creating blind spots.
The larger the tilt - the better for self-cleaning!
Simplified: The larger the tilt of your panels, the better for self-cleaning!

How Is Superhydrophobic Nanocoating Applied To Solar Panels

Superhydrophobic nanocoatings can be applied to solar panels using a variety of methods, including spraying or brushing. The application method depends on the type of coating being used and the size and shape of the panels.

How Does Superhydrophobic Nanocoating Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

Superhydrophobic nanocoating can actually improve solar panel efficiency by reducing the amount of dirt and debris that accumulates on the surface. When solar panels are covered in dirt or other particles, it can block sunlight and reduce the amount of energy they can generate. By repelling water and debris, superhydrophobic nanocoating helps to keep solar panels clean and functioning at optimal levels.

Will Superhydrophobic Nanocoating Lower Panel Efficiency

When applied correctly, superhydrophobic nanocoatings can actually enhance the efficiency of panels. By creating a water-repellent surface, superhydrophobic nanocoatings prevent contaminants from adhering to the panel surface, which can reduce the amount of sunlight that is absorbed and lower the efficiency. With clever application techniques, panels can maintain their clarity and performance, ensuring maximum energy production. Additionally, our careful application process minimises any impact on efficiency, so you can enjoy the benefits of a clean and efficient panel without compromise.

Can Superhydrophobic Nanocoating Harm Or Damage Solar Panels

As of April 2023 we are unaware of any conclusive scientific evidence which suggests that superhydrophobic nanocoatings cause any harm or damage to solar panels.

Do Nanocoatings Wear Off Over Time

Yes, nanocoatings on solar panels wear off over time. The durability of the nanocoating depends on the specific chemical formulation, the application work and environmental factors such as exposure to harsh weather, UV radiation, or pollutants. However, it is important to note that these coatings are designed to protect and enhance the performance of solar panels, and any potential wearing off would be a gradual process over years. Regular inspection and maintenance can help ensure that the nanocoating remains effective for as long as possible.

Are Superhydrophobic
Nanocoatings
Expensive

The cost of superhydrophobic nanocoating can vary depending on the size of the solar panel array and the type of coating being used. However, the cost is often offset by the savings in cleaning and maintenance costs over time. In addition, the improved efficiency of the solar panels can result in increased energy production and revenue, making the investment in nanocoating worthwhile.

Can These Nanocoatings Be Removed Again - If Necessary

Yes, superhydrophobic nanocoatings can be removed if necessary. However, it’s important to consult with a professional before attempting to remove the coating, as improper removal can damage the solar panels.

Are all SHP Nanocoatings the same in Terms Of Quality

No, the quality of superhydrophobic nanocoatings varies based on several key factors. Primarily, the specific formula of a nanocoating, which is individual to each manufacturer, majorly influences its performance.

  • Formulation: Each nanocoating's formula impacts its performance. This is dependent on the manufacturer's proprietary technology.
  • Application Process: The method of application is crucial. It influences the effectiveness of the nanocoating, with certain conditions and professional handling yielding better results.
  • Substrate Condition: The condition and chemical nature of the material upon which the coating is applied affect the coating's performance.
  • Environment: Environmental conditions influence a nanocoating's durability. Its resilience toward harsh weather, physical wear, and UV radiation is particularly noteworthy.
  • Product Quality and Consistency: Variations in the quality and consistency of the nanocoating itself can greatly affect the quality of resulting application. Superior nanocoatings maintain high standards through consistent production processes.
As consultants, Lotus Nano focusses on sourcing high-quality and reliable nanocoatings from reputed suppliers. We evaluate and select products based on the above factors, ensuring that our customers receive the best in terms of product performance and consistency.

Should We
Run Trials Or Pilots

Absolutely! Before applying a superhydrophobic coating to all your solar panels, it is highly recommended to run trials to determine the effectiveness of the coating — especially in your specific settings. This can include testing different types and strengths of superhydrophobic coatings, as well as comparing them to other types of nanocoatings altogether. By running trials, solar energy companies can ensure they are choosing the best coating for their specific needs. Talk to us about this!

We Manufacture Solar Panels: What do you Recommend

As a solar panel manufacturer, integrating nanocoating into your production process can prove highly beneficial. This added protective layer can offer significant advantages to your products and customers, such as improved efficiency and lower maintenance. The principal benefits of utilizing nanocoating include:

  • Enhanced self-cleaning properties: Nanocoatings deter the accumulation of dirt, dust, and other contaminants on the solar panel surface, which can diminish performance.
  • Greater efficiency: Keeping the panels clean and reducing soiling helps ensure more sunlight reaches the panels, potentially augmenting energy output.
  • Lower maintenance costs: Thanks to their self-cleaning properties, customers will find less frequent cleaning necessary, thus reducing their overall maintenance costs.
  • Extended lifespan: Nanocoatings protect the solar panels from detrimental environmental factors, boosting their lifespan and ensuring customers get a better return on their investment.
  • Competitive edge: By offering solar panels with advanced protective layers, your products can differentiate themselves in the market, which your customers will perceive as added value.
  • Avoiding future upgrades: Applying nanocoating at the production stage lets you leverage optimal factory conditions, which can be more cost-effective than post-installation coating upgrades. This factory-controlled environment ensures prime application, dodging the higher costs and labor-intensive process typically associated with installing nanocoatings in remote or challenging locations.

The Take Away

Nanocoatings improve the performance of existing solar panels by keeping them clean and enhancing their ability to absorb sunlight. Fine-tuning of these coatings enables an efficient retrofit solution, making solar panels work even better than before - by up to 15%

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