By Ashwin Kelkar
The advent of the solar panel has allowed us to harness the energy of the sun, similar to plants. However, unlike plants, solar panels run into a predicament; though we can utilize some of the sun’s rays, most waves end up being reflected off the surface of solar panels. This massive amount of reflected sunlight demonstrates how inefficient solar panels are, even today.
However, scientists at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory have now created a surface coating that can reduce glare dramatically to trap sunlight and therefore make solar power that much more efficient.
The study was inspired by investigating how moths’ eyes function. Moths have antireflective surfaces on their eyes that resemble fence posts, each smaller than the wavelength of light, that are tightly packed together to ensure the least amount of reflection.
To properly imitate this surface, Dr. Matthew Eisaman and colleagues used a “block copolymer” that, when coated on a surface, organize into similar posts spanning nanometers. While normal solar panels utilize coatings with intermediate indices of refraction to gradually reduce the amount of light reflected by the layers of varying material, this copolymer coat successfully prevents light from being reflected.
To increase the antireflective properties even more, the scientists used gaseous silicon oxide to fill the crevices the polymer makes during organization. The gas prevents reflection further, which the team discovered using various different methodologies including electron microscopy and previous surface science.
The results of this experiments extend far and wide, as solar panels have multiple functions. Solar panels reduce electrical costs for many people around the world, so increasing efficiency would further reduce living expenses. This breakthrough study could also facilitate the creation of more efficient solar panels, thus reducing our carbon footprint and preventing further damage to the ecosystem.
- Research team uses nanostructure surface textures to improve solar cells. Stony Brook Newsroom. (2015).