Scientists unveil self-cleaning solar panel technology poised to revolutionize energy sector: ‘A major step’ – The Cool Down

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Solar panels and wind turbines are already providing tons of clean, renewable energy for people worldwide and helping to reduce reliance on dirty fuel for power — but the technology around both is still evolving. 

Scientists at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea developed a device that combines wind and solar to harvest clean energy more efficiently.

The device, a wind-powered electrodynamic screen, allowed the scientists to create a self-cleaning solar panel.

A self-cleaning solar panel is a big deal. Because solar panels work by absorbing sunlight, they must be kept free of dust and dirt or else the light will be blocked from getting in. That requires regular cleaning, which can be expensive, difficult, and depending on where the panels are installed, even dangerous. Few solar panels are installed in places where they can be easily reached and wiped down (with some exceptions). 

As Interesting Engineering detailed, an electrodynamic screen is able to clean a solar panel without human help using high-voltage electric fields. But the screen must also be powered through an external source, and that’s where the wind energy comes in. 

By introducing a triboelectric nanogenerator that harnesses the frictional energy of the wind, the researchers were able to generate enough electricity to power the electrodynamic screen, allowing it to keep the solar panel around 90% clean in perpetuity.

“We’ve found a way to turn abundant wind energy into a tool to maintain panel’s cell efficiency. This is a major step towards ensuring solar power remains a dominant solution for a cleaner future,” Professor Lee Ju-hyuck, who led the research, said.

Using one type of clean energy to enhance the efficiency of another type of clean energy is a particularly elegant solution to a problem — and it’s the type of technological advancement that we can hope and expect to see more of as solar and wind continue to become more widespread.

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