The direction in which roof top mounted solar panels face is very important, since it determines the amount of solar energy these devices will be able to convert into power. But this may soon become less of a concern. A team of electrical engineers from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan’s National Central University has come up with special glass coating, which might allow the panels to harvest sunlight from multiple angles. This would effectively make them omnidirectional and have a great positive impact on the efficiency of the cells resulting in higher power yields.
The researchers have developed a special fused-silica packaging glass, which acts as the coating for the silicon solar cells on solar panels. This glass features a hierarchical structure, which has ultrathin nanorods, as well as bigger, honeycomb-shaped nanowalls integrated into it. According to the researchers, the so-called subwavelength feature of the nanorods combined with an efficient scattering ability of the nanowalls leads to an enhanced conversion efficiency, which could be from 5.2 and 27.7 percent higher than it is with traditional solar panels. The conversion efficiency depends on the angle at which sunlight is hitting the panel.
Apart from this greatly enhanced harvesting ability at various angles, the glass is also self-cleaning. It can repel pollution and dust so effectively that the panel still maintained 98.8 percent of its efficiency after six weeks of outdoor use.
In order for solar panels to achieve more widespread adoption the challenges of using them need to be removed. And finding a way to make the panels omnidirectional is definitely a step in the right direction.