Retrofitting facades and also solar panels easily with ultra-thin glass

Jan 26, 2023 09:49 PM ET
  • Cleaning glass facades and solar installments is costly as well as time-consuming. Dirt lowers the yield of solar modules. Nevertheless, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam as well as Plasma Technology (FEP) has actually currently been successful in applying crystalline titanium oxide to ultra-thin glass using a roll-to-roll procedure, thus achieving hydrophobic surfaces that come to be superhydrophilic under UV light.
Retrofitting facades and also solar panels easily with ultra-thin glass
Image: CC0 Public Domain

Initial results of this showcase of several of the NewSkin open access upscaling facilities will certainly exist at the Fraunhofer joint booth, No. C2-528, during BAU 2023, April 17-- 22, in Munich, Germany.

In 2021, photovoltaics covered 8.9% of gross electricity consumption in Germany with electricity generation of 50 TWh. This percentage has to increase to get to a lasting energy shift. Dirt-repellent, very easy to clean surfaces ensure transparency and cleanliness for facades, as well as much more efficient and also consistent energy manufacturing for solar power, with lower maintenance costs.

" We are focusing on photoinduced hydrophilicity on surfaces right here," clarifies college student Valentin Heiser from FEP. "To upscale this impact, we apply crystalline titanium oxide to ultrathin glass in a roll-to-roll procedure for the first time. This is very reliable. The ultrathin and also lightweight glass can be used subsequently to facades or directly included into solar modules as a composite material-- and also even onto curved surfaces."

Titanium dioxide alters its hydrophilicity, i.e., its water repellency, when exposed to UV radiation (e.g., activation by sunlight). Unirradiated, it is hydrophobic, meaning it forms water droplets. After irradiation, it is superhydrophilic, or entirely moistened. In the case of photoinduced hydrophilicity, the surface modifications from hydrophobic to superhydrophilic after around thirty minutes of irradiation with sun-like UV light.

On surfaces with this titanium dioxide coating, no or only really little dirt can be deposited. For instance, if traffic dust, sand or other dirt is transferred on glass facades or solar panels, it is washed off by the nighttime hydrophobicity of the surface using beading raindrops. In addition, the cyclic alternation of hydrophobic as well as superhydrophilic residential properties means that the dirt does not comply with the surface throughout the day.

Titanium oxide turned on with UV light likewise decomposes organic molecules on the surface by photocatalysis. This generates antibacterial and sterilized surfaces that are of specific rate of interest in clinical technology or about flexible displays.

The scientists at Fraunhofer FEP have now established the initial coatings: Particularly, a 30-cm wide as well as 20-m long roll of thin glass, with a glass thickness of 100 micrometers, was covered with 30-- 150 nanometers of titanium oxide in a roll-to-roll system. This pilot plant for roll-to-roll coating of thin glass (FOSA LabX 330 Glass from VON ARDENNE) lies at Fraunhofer FEP.

One obstacle for this showcase project is that thin glass is a very new substrate with significant handling requirements, as it breaks very easily as well as responds sensitively to thermal as well as mechanical stress and anxieties. Second, titanium dioxide accomplishes its unique residential properties of hydrophobicity and also hydrophilicity only when it is crystalline. For this, it requires high temperatures during manufacturing. Sputter coatings with these requirements can not be carried out in roll-to-roll technology previously since common substrates, such as films, can not endure the heats. This is where thin glass provides an option.

Thanks to this resolve NewSkin, Fraunhofer FEP researchers are now servicing integrating the residential properties of titanium dioxide and thin glass in an optimal as well as cost-efficient way in order to bring cutting-edge items to market together with market. Scientists from Uppsala University, a companion of NewSkin, are servicing transferring the results even to polymer films.

In the future, work will certainly additionally be done by Fraunhofer FEP on layer systems that can be activated not only with UV light yet likewise with visible light. The manufacturing as well as embedding of nanoparticles or doping with nitrogen, for instance, are additionally being thought about.

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