Solar Panel Nano Coatings [What To Know About]
Solar energy is not only sustainable but also cleaner compared to other energy sources. However, solar panels are prone to dust, birds’ droppings, and other forms of pollution. These deposits usually cause a decrease in the efficiency of the solar panels.
Ideally, it would be best to clean your solar panels often for maximum efficiency, preferably every few weeks.
However, cleaning large solar panel arrays, particularly those mounted on rooftops, is hard. It would take you hours to clean them using detergents. Detergents are costly, hazardous to the environment, and can corrode the solar panel framework.
Thanks to solar panel nanocoatings, you don’t have to go through the trouble of cleaning each solar panel. Nanocoatings have unique characteristics that you can hardly find in conventional coatings. It eliminates pollen, dust, and other particles to keep the panels clean and produce solar energy efficiently.
Nanocoatings technology has improved the harnessing of clean and cheap energy. Nano coating can increase solar energy uptake to 96% and, in turn, boost the efficiency of your solar panels.
What Is Nano Coating?
A nanocoating is a coating made using different materials produced at the nanoscale to achieve the desired properties. They form a glossy, durable barrier that repels dust, water, and other contaminants.
Their primary purpose on solar panels is to protect, preserve, and help boost solar panel energy output. They bond perfectly with any paintwork and become part of the surface, giving a smooth finish.
Nanocoatings have been used in glasses over the years to make them dust repellant and hydrophobic. Their layer thickness is typically 1-100nm. When applied, these coatings change the characteristics of certain materials, for instance, introducing new features like self-cleaning.
The coating material is usually a product in a powder state, paste, or liquid that forms a layer with protective, decorative, or other specific properties upon application on a substrate.
Nanostructured coatings are applicable for various applications due to their remarkable features that you may not find in typical coatings. Some of their benefits include;
- Reducing contact tension
- Accelerate drying to help maintain surfaces
- Minimizes moisture penetration
- Increases hydrophobicity
- Molecular force on the nanocoating pushes water and other particles away.
How Do Solar Panel Nano Coatings Work?
Applying nanocoating involves covering a surface with an atom-thin nano-protectant layer. All surfaces, whether smooth or not, have tiny holes and dents. When you look at glass under a microscope, you will see small holes in its structure. These tiny spaces allow water and dirt to bond on surfaces. They create a surface area that supports the contaminants.
Since nanoparticles are tiny, they fit perfectly into all those tiny holes, remain stable, and level out the surface. Nanoparticles are often uniform and flat; they thus make the solar panel surface smooth.
Fats, dirt, oil, and water don’t bond on a surface treated with nanocoating but rather slip off. This feature makes cleaning as simple as wiping off dirt with a cloth.
The self-cleaning technology was initiated by scientists who were inspired by the lotus flower. Dirt and dust sited on its leaves are wiped off when it rains, keeping the flower extremely clean.
Through research and observations under microscopes, scientists learned how it works and created a replica in the lab. Over the years, they have invented nano coatings for various applications, including solar panels, cars mirrors, kitchen surfaces, clothes, furniture, and electronics, among others.
Types of Nanocoatings
There are several types of nanocoatings which include but are not limited to:
Scientists researched superhydrophobic surfaces and created a coating that could repel most liquids. They came up with superhydrophobic nanocoating. This coating protects solar materials and equipment from contamination, corrosion, and damage by other hazardous chemicals.
Superhydrophobic nanocoatings are a perfect solution for coating solar panels due to their water-repelling features. Their fabrication was inspired by nature since water repels natural surfaces such as butterfly wings and lotus leaves.
Water rolls off superhydrophobic surfaces due to the presence of nanostructure materials on these surfaces.
Superhydrophobic coatings have anti-icing, anti-dust, antifogging, antipollution, and self-cleaning features. They can increase your solar panels’ efficiency by approximately 20% to 30%.
Besides using these coatings on solar panels, they are applied on road signs, household goods, and air conditioners.
Materials used in the production of superhydrophobic coatings include but are not limited to:
- Fluoropolymer coatings
- Manganese oxide polystyrene (MnO2/PS)
- Silica nano-coating
- Precipitated calcium carbonate
- Zinc oxide polystyrene (ZnO/PS) nano-composite
Responsive nano coatings
The advancement of technology in nanocoatings has led to the invention of responsive nano coatings. They are “intelligent” nanocoatings that respond to environmental stimuli such as heat or light.
Some of the materials in the coating change by conferring improved or new properties either actively or passively.
Corrosion protection and prevention are a necessity to increase durability and extend the life of materials. The materials developed and used in modern industries require high-quality coatings to perform better without unnecessary wear and tear.
Some manufacturers apply anti-corrosion nanocoatings on solar panels to reduce corrosion caused by harsh microbial and weather conditions.
Superhydrophilic surfaces dry out quickly and don’t fog up when exposed to steam or condensation. Water spreads out on surfaces with superhydrophilic nanocoatings.
You can apply the coatings on your solar panels, mirrors, shower screens, and windows. Other applications include anti-condensation air conditioners, road signs, and household goods.
Self-cleaning in surfaces with superhydrophilic nanocoatings occurs through the photocatalytic process. Organic dirt on the hydrophilic surface breaks down when exposed to light.
Advancement in nanotechnology has led to the invention of high-efficiency solar panel nano coatings. These coatings are anti-reflective and enable solar panels to take in more sunlight.
These technologies involve the use of nanocoatings with an intermediate refractive index. When sunlight passes through the air with a refractive index of approximately 1, it hits the solar panels surface, whose material (often silicon) has a higher refractive index of approximately 4.
The higher the abrupt change in refractive index, the higher the reflection of sunlight. This phenomenon causes some sunlight to be reflected away, reducing the uptake.
A nanocoating with an intermediate refractive index is applied on the solar panel surface to reduce the reflection rate. Materials used to make anti-reflective nanocoatings include Carbon Nano Tube (CNT), Titanium dioxide (TiO2), and Silicon dioxide (SiO2).
Tribological nanocoatings are used on surfaces of different components to reduce wear and friction.
They increase cutting speed, boost the rate of material removal, and cut the maintenance costs of tools and machines. The coating also helps minimize processing cycle times. Tribological nanocoating reduces or eliminates the need to use lubricants.
What Environments Can I use Solar Panel nanocoatings?
Nanocoatings are more effective where the material will help reduce the impact of environmental contaminants. Nanocoatings are best applicable in areas with:
- Sand or dust
- A lot of rain
- Pollution such as oil spillage, birds’ droppings, among others.
However, anti-reflective nanocoatings are applicable in all areas.
Ready-Made Vs. DIY Solar Panel nano Coatings
If you want a solar panel with nanocoating, you have two main options:
- Buy a ready-made (already coated) from the manufacturer.
- Buy a third-party nanocoating product.
You may be wondering, which is the best option?
The following table gives an analysis of the two options:
|Solar Panel with Nano coating||DIY Nano coating|
|The solar panel is more expensive, especially where the nanocoating is already impregnated by the manufacturer.||The nanocoating is often cheaper; thus, the overall cost of the solar panel and the coating may be lower.|
|The coating is fitted perfectly by the manufacturer.||You have to apply the coating on the solar panel surface. This may lead to uneven application of the coating on the surface.|
|The correct amount is applied at the processing site. The spreading is also uniform.||You may end up overdoing it, which may cause more inefficiency. On the other hand, applying too little may end up being ineffective.|
How Do You Know if Your Solar Panels Have Been Coated or Not?
Nanocoatings are very tiny that you may not see them with your naked eyes. A nanometre (nm) is 10-9 meters or one-billionth of a meter or one-thousandth of a micrometer. That’s too tiny to notice with your eyes.
However, you can use other methods to check if your solar panel has nanocoating. The easiest method is reading the manufacturer’s manual or product description before purchasing it. Since nanocoating technology is used as a marketing advantage, most manufacturers will indicate the technology in their manual.
However, there are cases where you may not get documented information, especially when you lose the solar panel documentation. There is an easy DIY test.
- Place the solar panel on a slanted surface or support structure.
- Fetch some muddy water and pour it on the front surface of the solar panel from the top.
- Observe the behavior of the water as it flows downwards. If the water flows downwards as a single or few broad streams and leaves some mud, most likely, your solar panel doesn’t have a nanocoating. However, if the water breaks down into several narrow streams and water drops as it flows downwards, leaving a clean surface, then there is a high likelihood your solar panel has a nanocoating.
Please note that there is no 100% sure way of knowing whether the solar panel has a nanocoating or not unless you apply the nanocoating or the manufacturer specifies it.
Advantages of Solar Panel Nano Coatings
Nano coating self-cleaning property prevents dirt, bird depositions, and other contaminants from sticking on your solar panels. When it rains, it will wipe off the dirt.
You can also spray some water on the surface to remove the dirt if it doesn’t rain often. Clean panels operate efficiently and produce the maximum amount of solar energy.
If you are living in areas that rain regularly, then you will benefit from the hydrophobic feature.
Surfaces with hydrophobic coatings repel water more quickly than other surfaces. Water drops roll off the solar panel easily; your solar panels will therefore function efficiently during rainy seasons.
Cleaning roof-mounted or pole-mounted solar panels can be dangerous since you have to climb to access the surface. Hiring a cleaning expert can also be expensive. However, if your solar panels have nanocoatings, you only need to spray some water on the panels, and the magic happens. Rainwater will also do you justice.
A typical solar panel without anti-reflective nanocoating absorbs approximately two-thirds of the sunlight that hits its surface. On the other hand, a solar panel with anti-reflective nanocoating technology will absorb more sunlight.
Drawbacks of Having Solar Panel Nanocoating
Despite the evident benefits of nanocoatings on solar panels, they pose a few challenges, which include but are not limited to:
Nano coating involves applying an extra layer on the surface of the PV module. This extra layer may reduce the transmittance of sunlight. However, this layer may not create a significant reduction in the operational efficiency of the solar panel.
Please note that the efficiency created by the nanocoating is only gained when the coating helps remove the inefficiency caused by contaminants.
Nanotechnology is a growing field and scientists are still researching nanomaterials. The gradual degradation of polymers used in nanomaterials is still a major problem.
Unlike solar panels whole lifetime expectancy is approximately 25 years, the durability of nanocoatings cannot be guaranteed.
Nanocoatings have proven to be helpful in various applications, especially in solar systems.
Solar panel nanocoatings can make the surfaces self-cleaning, reduce corrosion and reduce the reflection of sunlight. These enhancements improve the PV module’s uptake of sunlight and increase its output.
If you live in areas with a lot of rain, dust, sand, or industrial pollutants, buy solar panels with nanocoatings. If you already have a solar panel that doesn’t have nanocoating, consider buying one. You can buy a nanocoating product from a local supplier or a solar system manufacturer and apply it.