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Superhydrophobic Water – Resistant Films For Solar Panels 

Researchers at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi NCR have developed films that have water-repelling capabilities and dewetting characteristics.

As concerns about climate change escalate, the demand for solar panels is rising sharply, driven by a growing focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. With a heightened awareness of the environmental impact of conventional energy sources, solar panels emerge as a clean, renewable alternative that helps mitigate carbon emissions and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. Moreover, ongoing technological advancements have made solar panels more affordable and efficient, rendering them increasingly appealing for residential, commercial, and industrial applications.

The effectiveness and functionality of a solar panel is dependent on its ‘film’. The film is typically made of semiconductors like silicon, absorbs photons from sunlight, generates electron-hole pairs and initiates the flow of electricity. The efficiency, durability, and cost-effectiveness of this film are key factors in determining the overall performance and viability of solar panels for renewable energy generation. Continual advancements in film technology worldwide have significantly contributed to the widespread adoption of solar energy as a sustainable power source. 

In alignment with this global trend, researchers at Shiv Nadar University, located in the Delhi NCR region, have made significant strides in clean energy technology with the development of flexible and durable films designed to enhance energy harnessing and conservation efforts. 

Addressing Performance Limitations

The research undertaken by the scientists at Shiv Nadar University addresses critical performance limitations imposed by atmospheric contamination. Factors such as pollutants, salt-laden aerosols, and rain often compromise the functionality and effectiveness of engineering systems, posing significant challenges to sustainable development efforts worldwide. 

To overcome these challenges, the research team adopted an innovative approach focused on developing films capable of repelling water and other liquids. By utilizing a biofuel-based flame treatment, they successfully engineered superhydrophobic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) films with exceptional water-repelling properties, paving the way for enhanced environmental resilience in various applications.

Superhydrophobic Films: Advancing Engineering Systems

The development of superhydrophobic films opens up new avenues for innovation in engineering design and materials science. Researchers and engineers can explore novel applications, optimize film properties, and develop advanced manufacturing techniques to further enhance the performance and functionality of these films in diverse engineering systems. These films offer immense potential for widespread adoption in both industrial and consumer applications. It offers a plethora of benefits. 

1. Enhanced Efficiency: Superhydrophobic films prevent water droplets from sticking to the surface of solar panels. This reduces the formation of water films, which can scatter and absorb sunlight, thereby improving the efficiency of solar energy conversion.

2. Self-Cleaning: By repelling water and dust particles, superhydrophobic coatings keep the surface of solar panels clean. This reduces the accumulation of dirt and debris, maintaining optimal light transmission and maximizing energy output.

3. Extended Lifespan: Protecting solar panels from moisture, dust, and environmental contaminants can prolong their lifespan. Superhydrophobic films help mitigate corrosion, degradation, and other forms of damage, leading to longer-lasting and more reliable solar energy systems.

4. Reduced Maintenance: With self-cleaning properties, solar panels coated with superhydrophobic films require less frequent cleaning and maintenance. This lowers operational costs and minimizes downtime associated with manual cleaning procedures.

5. Performance in Harsh Environments: In regions with high humidity, frequent rain, or airborne pollutants, superhydrophobic coatings provide added protection against environmental factors that can affect solar panel performance. This ensures consistent energy production even in challenging conditions.

6. Compatibility with Different Panel Types: Superhydrophobic films can be applied to various types of solar panels, including traditional silicon-based panels and emerging thin-film or flexible photovoltaic technologies, making them a versatile solution for improving solar energy efficiency across different platforms.

Superhydrophobic films for solar panel

Unique Water Repelling Features

The superhydrophobic films developed by the research team at Shiv Nadar University boast unique structural features that contribute to their outstanding performance. These films exhibit coral-like structures, formed from agglomerated nano-silica particles, which play a pivotal role in enhancing their water-repelling properties. The intricate architecture of these structures creates a rough surface texture, increasing the surface area and promoting the formation of air pockets. This hierarchical structure enables the films to trap air within their surface layers, creating a cushion of air that prevents water droplets from making contact with the underlying substrate. Additionally, the nano-scale roughness of the film surface further amplifies the water-repelling effect by reducing the contact area between water droplets and the film surface. As a result, the films exhibit exceptional water contact angles exceeding 160 degrees, surpassing the hydrophobicity of natural surfaces such as the Lotus leaf.

In a paper published in the Chemical Engineering Journal, researchers said that the secret to these films’ exceptional performance lies in the Coral-like structures formed from agglomerated nano-silica particles, providing a negative capillary pressure.

“The films also showed immense anti-fogging and persistent anti-icing properties limiting the formation and adhesion of ice. Given the flexible nature, these films can be applied to various geometrically intricate shaped objects. The films are able to repel a range of staining liquids including coffee, tea, soda and blood etc,” said Dr. Harpreet Singh Grewal, the lead researcher from Shiv Nadar University, Delhi NCR. 

This unique feature results in extreme dewetting and low adhesion characteristics, making the films resilient in harsh physical and chemical environments.

Diverse Applications and Advantages

The versatility of superhydrophobic films extends beyond traditional engineering systems, encompassing a wide range of applications across various industries. These films can be applied to geometrically intricate objects, irregular surfaces, and delicate substrates, offering unparalleled protection against water damage and environmental degradation. In addition to their use in solar panels, flexible electronics, and optical equipment, superhydrophobic films find applications in automotive coatings, marine coatings, textile manufacturing, and medical devices. 

Their ability to repel water and other liquids makes them ideal for outdoor applications where exposure to moisture, rain, and contaminants is common. Furthermore, their low surface energy and self-cleaning properties contribute to easy maintenance and long-term durability, reducing the need for frequent cleaning and maintenance. This results in cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency across various industries, making superhydrophobic films a preferred choice for engineers, manufacturers, and researchers worldwide.

Impressive Performance and Endurance

The exceptional performance and endurance of superhydrophobic films are key attributes that set them apart from conventional coatings and materials. These films demonstrate outstanding resistance to environmental factors such as humidity, moisture, UV radiation, and mechanical abrasion, ensuring long-term reliability and durability in harsh operating conditions. In accelerated ageing tests, the films have endured over 20,000 droplet impacts without significant damage, indicating their robustness and resilience against wear and tear. Moreover, the films have undergone extensive weathering tests, lasting more than a year in outdoor exposure conditions without experiencing degradation or loss of performance. This remarkable endurance underscores the potential of superhydrophobic films for long-term use in demanding applications, providing reliable protection and enhanced functionality in diverse engineering systems.

Conclusion

The breakthrough achieved by the researchers at Shiv Nadar University in superhydrophobic film technology represents a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable energy solutions. By addressing performance limitations, fostering innovation, and demonstrating exceptional durability, these films hold immense promise for driving progress in clean energy initiatives and promoting environmental stewardship on a global scale.

Reference-indiatoday.in, ases.org, theecoexperts.co

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