Automatically clears snow! Reduce the snow and ice coverage of solar panels to 28%

  With the development of technology and the deepening of human environmental protection awareness, photovoltaic power generation, as a part of green energy, has begun to be used more and more. However, in cold northern climates, frequent snowfall tends to have a dramatic impact on the normal operation of solar panels.
  ”Solar panels can lose 80 or 90 percent of their power generation capacity in the winter. So finding a way to keep them generating electricity year-round is an exciting challenge.” Arnie, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan Sh Tutha said.

  To solve this problem, the University of Michigan team has developed an inexpensive clear coating that can drastically reduce snow and ice buildup on solar panels, thereby significantly improving the production efficiency of solar panels in cold climates.
  Relevant research was published under the title “Using icy-phobic surfaces with low interfacial toughness to reduce large-scale snow accumulation in solar arrays in the field”, with Tutha as the corresponding author.

  For solar energy, although snow does not damage the modules, it will completely cover the panels, and it is difficult for light to penetrate the thick snow, which is also a huge dilemma faced by photovoltaic modules in winter.
  ”Ice is relatively dense and heavy, and our previous coating would use its own weight to let it fall off on its own. But snow is probably 10 times less dense than ice, so we’re not at all sure the tricks we used on ice would translate successfully. ” Tutha explained.
  To find the best coating, Tuttha and his team took inspiration from ice-shedding coatings invented in the past, and began to focus on the two properties of “low interfacial toughness” and “low adhesion strength.”
  Low adhesion strength generally relies on a smooth surface, in other words, the smoother the solar panel, the less adhesion, and the easier it is for the snow to fall off on its own. But relying on slippage alone works well on small areas, and if the surface is large, it takes a very large amount of force to slide the snow and ice down.
  For larger areas, a method is needed to break the ice and snow bonds, and this is where low interfacial toughness comes into play.

  Low interfacial toughness creates cracks between the ice and the panel. Regardless of the size of the panel, it propagates along the panel, completely breaking the adhesion between ice and snow. This concept is widely used in the field of fracture mechanics, but until now, it has not been tried for snow removal.
  Based on these two properties, the team determined the direction of research and development, and began to work on a balance between low adhesion strength and low interface toughness.
  They started with PVC plastic, because it is very hard, the interface toughness is low enough, and its surface adhesion is reduced to a considerable extent with a small amount of vegetable oil.
  In addition to this, they also found alternative materials for PVC plastic and vegetable oil, namely PDMS plastic and silicone oil, which can play the same role.

  Working with the University of Alaska, the team was able to test the coating material at the Solar Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. The tests showed that “the average snow cover for the coated panels was about 28 percent over the winter, compared to about 59 percent for the uncoated panels,”
  Tutja said. Snow coatings will then make solar power more reliable and affordable in snowy regions, helping to accelerate the transition to a solar-led energy economy.”
  Notably, in addition to the solar industry, others include automotive windshields , self-driving car lidar cover and cold-climate optical sensors, etc., can be deployed the coating.
  However, the team doesn’t plan to immediately apply the material to a coating iteration. It is reported that they plan to further adjust it, with the aim of developing a coating that can be used for at least five years.

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