Technique Keeps Dust Off Solar Cells

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Technique Keeps Dust Off Solar Cells
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Sergey Biryukov demonstrating his dust-repulsion technique.

SEDE BOQER, Israel — A new technique could help keep dust off of solar cells, a major obstacle that reduces the efficiency of photovoltaic panels.

The technique, developed by Sergey Biryukov, a researcher at the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center, uses an electric field to charge dust and small particles before repelling them. At a recent demonstration, Biryukov poured a small amount of a dustlike powder onto an electrified solar cell. The dust was immediately thrown back prevented by the electric field from settling onto the panel.

[Video: A Dust-Repelling Solar Panel]

Two electrodes are used to repel the dust. One electrode charges the particles through a process called field charging, or ion bombardment. This gives all particles, regardless of size, the same charge, Biryukov told  TechNewsDaily. Another electrode bearing the opposite charge then repels the particles.

This technology can be added to solar panels after they have already been manufactured and installed, meaning it can be used to retrofit old solar cells, Biryukov said.

While it's better at repelling dust, it can also be used to clean solar panels, said David Faiman, also a researcher at Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center who is familiar with Biryukov's research but not directly involved. Since weather conditions such as humidity affect how strongly dust adheres to the panels, Biryukov has made a special computerized control system designed to pick the right moment for cleaning, he said.

The process can also sort particles of specific sizes, which could make it useful in the production of powdered foods and pharmaceuticals, which depend upon specific particle sizes to function optimally, Biryukov added.

This story was generated during a trip paid for by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Email Douglas Main or follow him @Douglas_Main. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+.

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