Many believe renewable energy is the way of the future. And the future is bright! As of 2020, only 3% of the world’s energy comes from solar power. However, that number is climbing due to decreasing costs, greater efficiency and technological advancements.
Typical silicon cells convert 20% of the sun’s energy, with the rest turning into heat. This heating of the panels is one of the most persistent issues with this type of energy. For decades, researchers have known that solar panels are much less efficient when overheated—just like people. However, a group of researchers at the University of Texas have created a new gel-like material that can make solar panels “sweat,” which seems to be a game-changer in solar technology.
What is this material?
The gel-like substance is a mix of carbon nanotubes in polymers with a water-attracting calcium chloride salt. This material was initially created to produce clean drinking water. It has proven effective and has the potential to provide a clean, sustainable water source for millions.
What are its applications in the energy field?
When applied to the bottom of a panel, this gel pulls the heat from the panel. It initiates an evaporation process for the water it pulled out of the air the previous night, releasing it through the bottom of the gel layer. The evaporating water cools the panel just like sweating cools the human body.
The amount of gel needed per panel depends on its size and the temperature and humidity in your location.
What are the results?
The temperature of solar panels can drop as much as 10°C, and the electricity output of the panels can increase by 15%. These are considerable numbers. In a market with the kind of growth potential like solar technology, new developments are noteworthy.
Emerging technologies and companies have unique legal needs, especially with regards to trade secrets and intellectual property. Make sure you are set up for success when you enter a complicated field such as solar energy.