A little-known fact is that solar panels can become up to 30 percent less effective when they accumulate dust and grime. A more widely known fact is that homeowners climbing up on roofs to fix shingles, clean gutters or wash solar panels can lead to some very unpleasant injuries. For those performing the latter, listen up: Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently discovered a new nano-material that repels dust and water. Once commercialized, the material could be applied as a sheer coating, creating self-washing windows and solar panels.
Researchers discovered the miraculous little material accidentally as they were working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. By placing peptides (short polymers) in a vacuum under high pressure, researchers created self-assembling nanotubes. The end result were tiny nanotubes about one-billionth of a meter in length that all together resemble a small forest of grass. Because the nanotubes are resistant to water and heat, researchers figure that the nano-material would be an ideal coating for windows and solar panels, essentially creating products that clean themselves.
As a bonus, the new nano-material also acts as a supercapacitor, meaning it could also be used to prodive extra energy for batteries in electric vehicles or incorporated into existing lithium batteries.
The group of Tel Aviv researchers have already been approached to commercialize their new material, so we could see self-washing windows and solar panels within the next few years. And while that’s great news for us greenies, we’re guessing professional window-washers aren’t too pleased by the development.
Lead photo by Joe M500