Solar energy harvesting and a water droplet cleaning of micropost arrays surfaces


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Yilbas B. S. , Al-Sharafi A., Sahin A. Z.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESEARCH, vol.44, no.3, pp.2072-2083, 2020 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 44 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1002/er.5063
  • Title of Journal : INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESEARCH
  • Page Numbers: pp.2072-2083
  • Keywords: environmental dust, hydrophobicity, optical transmittance, solar energy harvesting, GLASS-SURFACE, DUST REMOVAL, MOBILITY

Abstract

Solar energy harvesting in dusty environments initiates many challenges for sustainable operation of photovoltaic panels. Environmental dust reduces photovoltaic device performance and requires regular cleaning of active surfaces. Self-cleaning of surfaces by water droplets offers advantages in terms of reduced cost and sustainable operation. The present study investigates dust removal from hydrophobic and optically transparent micropost arrays surfaces in relation to solar energy applications. The micropost arrays are replicated using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) casting on textured silicon wafers. The replicated micropost arrays result in hydrophobic surface with contact angle of about 147.6 degrees +/- 5 degrees and the hysteresis of 16 degrees +/- 2 degrees. In relation to self-cleaning, water droplet behavior on the inclined replicated micropost arrays is simulated and droplet movement is examined experimentally. The optical transmittance of micropost arrays is tested in outdoor dusty environments. It is found that droplet slides on the inclined micropost surface and expanding droplet size enhances the sliding velocity. Alkaline dust compounds dissolve in droplet while increasing pH from 4.35 to 7.94 and surface tension from 0.072 to 0.120 N/m. This alters droplet pinning and lowers the sliding velocity from 0.2 to 0.15 m/s. Optical transmittance of the samples was tested in outdoor dusty environments improve considerably by sliding water droplet cleaning on daily bases (transmittance reduces only 3% or less as reference to surface being kept indoor environments). Hence, introducing micropost arrays on photovoltaic panel protective cover surface can provide self-cleaning effect, via droplet rolling, while slightly reducing optical transmittance of cover glass (approximately 2.5%-3%) in outdoor environments.