Solar panels are a special kind of magic — turning light into useful electrical energy. However, they don’t work nearly as well when they’re covered in dust, dirt, and grime. Conventional solutions involve spraying panels down with pure water, which is expensive and wasteful, or dry scrubbing, which can cause efficiency loss through scratching the panels. However, innovative new methods may offer useful solutions in this area, as shared by EETimes.
Researchers at MIT have explored the use of electrostatic methods to remove dust from solar panels. By creating a sufficiently strong electrostatic field, dust particles can be compelled to leap off of solar panels. The cleaning method requires no water and is entirely non-contact. It uses a motor system to pass a charged electrode past the surface of the panels, with the opposite charge applied to the panels themselves. This repels the dust from the panels and onto the moving electrode.
Other methods include the use of special “self-cleaning” glass manufactured with a laser etching technique. The method, referred to as Direct Laser Interference Patterning, or DLIP, creates microscopic features on the order of 300 nm to 30 um on the surface of the glass. The pattern creates a so-called “functional surface” from which dirt simply slides off. The laser-etched pattern has no negative impact on transparency.
If these ideas prove practical, expect them to take off quickly. Commercially viable technologies spread fast in the renewable space, as we’ve seen with the rapid uptake of floating solar farms in recent years.
E-bikes can replace car trips for some people, and adding a solar panel can make the fun last longer. [Luke] did some heavy modifications to his RadWagon to make it better, stronger, and faster than it was before.
The first step was replacing the stock 750 W controller with a 1500 W model to give the motor twice the power. [Luke] plans to replace the motor if it gets fried pushing too much juice, but is planning on just being careful for now. To stop this super-powered ride, he swapped the stock mechanical discs out for a hydraulic set which should be more reliable, especially when loading down this cargo bike.
On top of these performance enhancements, he also added a 50 W solar panel and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller to give the bike a potential 50% charge every day. Along with the OEM kid carrier and roof, this bike can haul kids and groceries while laughing at any hills that might come its way.
Checkout this other solar e-bike or this one making a trip around the world for more fun in the sun.
Ebikes are slowly taking the place of many cars, especially for short trips. Most ebikes can take riders at least 16 kilometers (10 miles) without too much effort, at a cost that’s often a single-digit percentage of what the same trip would have been with an internal combustion engine. If you’re interested in dropping the costs of your ebike trips even further, or eliminating it entirely, take a look at this small ebike with integrated solar panels.
While any battery can be charged with a sufficiently large array of solar panels and the correct electronics to match the two systems together, this bike has a key that sets it apart from most others: it can charge while it is being used to power the bike. Most ebikes don’t have charging enabled during rides, so if you want to use the sun while riding to extend the range of the bike you’ll need to find one like this. This bike uses two 50 W panels on the two cargo areas of the bike, attached to a 400 W MPPT charge controller. The Lectric XP 2.0 ebike has a motor with a peak rating of 850 W, but in a low pedal-assist mode the solar panels likely output a significant fraction of the energy used by the electric drivetrain.
Even if the panels don’t provide the full amount of energy needed for riding around, the project’s creator [Micah] lives in Florida, so just setting the bike outside in the sun for six to eight hours is enough to replenish most of the battery’s charge. It’s probably not going to win any solar-powered bike races anytime soon, but for an efficient, quick bike to ride around town it’s not too shabby.
When it comes to renewable energy, there are many great sources. Whether it’s solar, wind, or something else, though, we need a lot of it. Factories around the globe are rising to the challenge to provide what we need.
We can build plenty of new solar panels, of course, but we need to think about what happens when they reach end of life. As it turns out, with so much solar now out in the field, a major new recycling industry may be just around the corner.
Continue reading “Dead Solar Panels Are The Hottest New Recyclables” →
If you want to read about a low-tech approach to solar cells invented — and forgotten — 40 years before Bell Labs announced the first practical silicon solar cell, we can’t promise the website, Low Tech Magazine, will be available. Apparently the webserver it is on is solar-powered, and a disclaimer mentions that it sometimes goes offline.
The article by [Kris De Decker] tells of George Cove and includes a picture from 1910 of the inventor standing next to what looks suspiciously like a solar panel (the picture above is from a 1909 issue of Technical World Magazine). His first demonstration of the technology was in 1905 and there is a picture of another device from 1909 that produced 45 watts of power using 1.5 square meters with a conversion efficiency of 2.75%. That same year, a new prototype had 4.5 square meters and used its 240-watt output to charge 5 lead-acid batteries. The efficiency was about 5%.
Continue reading “Solar Power Goes Back To 1910 Tech” →
There’s been a movement in architecture over the past couple of decades to help tie together large urban developments with plant life and greenery. We’ve seen a few buildings, and hundreds more renders, of tall skyscrapers and large buildings covered in vegetation.
The aesthetic is often a beautiful one, but the idea is done as much for its tangible benefits as for the sheer visual glory. Naturally, there’s the obvious boost from plants converting carbon dioxide into delicious, life-giving oxygen. However, greenery on the roofs of buildings could also help improve the output of solar installations, according to a recent study from Sydney, Australia.
Continue reading “Green Roofs Could Help Improve Solar Panel Efficiency” →
They say once you start using twin monitors on the desktop, you’ll never want to go back. It’s even worse when you upgrade to three or more. However, it can be difficult to take such a set up on the road. Desiring better productivity on the go is what spurred [Brian Whitsett] to develop the Solar Display Case to solve this problem.
The Solar Display Case aims to pack three 17″ full-size monitors into a portable waterproof case. Brian has already built a prototype, which puts the monitors on folding arms so that they can be quickly stowed or deployed when needed.
The build also relies on solar power to charge batteries, in order to make the solution as portable as any laptop or other hardware you may be using with it. It’s no good having three mains-powered monitors sitting in the field with no AC power, after all. [Brian] aims to use a flexible solar panel to make the most of the surface area of the deployed assembly, for maximum power generation.
It’s a great project, and one we’d love to see fleshed out to the fullest. Imagining a briefcase that folds out into a triple-monitor workstation is exciting, and it looks like [Brian] is well on the way to making it a reality.