Innovation in the solar world never rests. In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has created a glass coating that allows solar panels to successfully function regardless of the direction they face. This innovative glass coating not only helps the panels absorb the rays of the sun even though they may not be directly facing the light, but also keep the panels clean. Most importantly, "the newly treated panels were able to maintain 98.8 percent of their efficiency after six weeks outdoors." Here is an excerpt:
For several years now experts have debated whether solar panels are more productive when facing south or west, with the majority concluding that it really depends on where in the world you live. If the new coating can be produced on a mass scale, not only will panels become more efficient, they can also be placed in all kinds of positions to catch the sunlight.
To create the glass coating, the researchers integrated ultrathin nanorods and larger honeycomb-shaped nanowalls into the existing material: the ability of the nanorods to capture subwavelengths of light and the scattering ability of the nanowalls combine to lead to a boost in efficiency of between 5.2 and 27.7 percent. In the long term, as much as a 46 percent efficiency improvement could be possible, depending on the angle of the light.
Even as the Sun moves across the sky, upgraded solar panels would be able to capture much more energy, and that makes a big difference when it comes to working out the economics of solar power in different regions of the world.
Making solar energy more competitive and scalable is an important part of maintaining the momentum behind it, as indeed was the message at the recent Solar Future 2015 Symposium held at KAUST.