Hydrophobic anti-soiling coating for solar modules

Scientists at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom are developing a water-repelling, anti-soiling coating for PV modules that could considerably reduce the frequency of expensive cleaning cycles.

The researchers said that polymer-based hydrophobic anti-soiling coatings have already been tested in solar modules. They said they only work in principle, as they cannot withstand constant exposure to environmental stress or to abrasion damage caused by regular cleaning.

The new solution consists of a thin abrasion-resistant inorganic coating fabricated via chemical vapour deposition (CVD), the research team said.

“The coating will be designed to ensure it is capable of being applied at an industrial scale using a chemical process that is compatible with glass manufacturing,” the team explained, without providing any additional technical details.

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The U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is providing the project with £1.2 million ($1.6 million) of funding. It is being developed in collaboration with University College London and the support of industrial partners such as U.K.-based PV drone specialist Above Surveying,Japanese glass manufacturer NSG Group, and Solar Farm Cleaning Ltd.

Several modules in production already include anti-reflective coatings to boost output. Dutch materials supplier DSM is in the process of launching a coating to be applied retroactively to older modules. Anti-soiling coatings are also gaining ground commercially, as project developers learn how to boost project output while keeping operations and maintenance costs to a minimum.

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