Hydrogel to aid in the making of self-cooling solar panels

Hydrogel collects humidity from the space during the night, which can be used for cooling of solar panels during the day and at the same time enhancing their working ability. 

A group of researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong Polytechnic University together worked in the obtaining of Hydrogel. They received the Hydrogel from a mixture of carbon nanotubes in polymers having calcium chloride salt that readily retains moisture from the atmosphere. The technique is proper as it enhances more production of photovoltaic electricity as well as cooling other devices.

Presently, Solar Photovoltaic (SP) panels generate over 600GW of universal power. The figure for energy seems to rise by 1500GW to 3000GW in the coming five to ten years, respectively.

Commercial silicon-based PV cells can turn absorbed solar light ranging between 6-25%, even though solar is bountiful, pure, and unlimited. Then the remaining sunlight is converted into extreme heat, which in turn accelerates the heat of the solar panels to around 40°C. The temperature is unfavorable as it makes the cells work less effectively, resulting in destruction. Inefficiency in the cells can be even worse in hot climates as compared to more temperate climates. 

Devices that can currently help in the cooling of photovoltaic cells include; refrigerator and air conditioner. However, they can be hungry for energy. Water-cooling systems can as well help, although the problem is storage units, proficient water conveyance, and a series of water pipes. 

Recently, members from the KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center and PolyU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering made an alternative device that is used to cool the PV cells. Their method is about a material that looks like a gel and constitutes Carbon Nanotubes that absorb heat. The Carbon Nanotubes are suspended in a cross-connected polyacrylamide (PAM) and Calcium Chloride (CaCl2). The gel easily attracts water molecules, and as a result, it can absorb vast quantities of moisture from the surrounding air. Also, the gel has the property of sticking itself to large surfaces such as solar panels through hydrogen bonding.

The group of researchers also searched for beat methods of doing away with Photovoltaic dust panels since it is a renowned problem in arid and semi-arid areas. In these regions, dust particles get deposited on the PV panels by storms. As a result, there is low power output by the solar panels if 20% of the dust is not removed.