Photo of solar panels is property of Mike Spasoff
Great news!!! A newly developed anti-reflective coating claims to be able to boost the efficiency of solar panels and allows solar energy to be absorbed from almost any angle. Researchers comprising scientists from the Future Chips Constellation (FCC) at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York lead by Professor of Physics, Shawn-Yu Lin have created the anti-reflective coating using nanotechnology (engineering devices on a molecular scale). Their findings are published in the scientific journal Optics Letters in a paper titled "Realization of a near perfect antireflection coating for silicon solar energy utilization" described the anti-reflective coating as comprising of seven tiny layers of a combination of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) and Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanorods positioned an an oblique angle, each about 50-100 nanometers in height.
Reduced reflection of solar energy can enhanced the efficiency of solar panels in 2 ways. First is the direct effect in increased absorption of solar energy;. Second is the indirect benefits in elimination of the energy needed to move the solar panels to track the sun.
Professor Lin claimed that these anti-reflective coating are easier to manufacture as its thickness need not be precise.
Professor Darren Bagnall from the Nanoscale Systems Integration Group at the UK's University of Southampton poured cold water on expectations of huge gains in solar panel technology as he said that while getting reflectivity from all angles of 3.5% and thus delivering more solar energy to the photovoltaic cells is impressive, it will only increase power extracted from the solar panels by 4 to 5%. More important is increasing the conversion to electrical energy efficiency.