New solar etching technology being developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology is both more efficient in absorbing light rays and self-cleaning. Chemical etching of solar panel surfaces at the micron and nanoscale helps to trap light in 3-dimensional structures.
The efficiency of the solar cells is increased by as much as two percent, which is significant for this renewable technology. Because of the etching, the reflection is reduced to less than five percent overall. As much as 10-percent of the light hitting traditional solar cells can be reflected due to dirt and dust build up on the surface.
The solar etching technology allows rain and dew to wipe the photovoltaic surface clean. Even in desert areas there is enough dew at night to remove dust from the cells. The ability of dust and dirt to bead up with moisture and roll off is called superhydrophobic.
Self-cleaning solar arrays will also help in the longevity of the photovoltaic panels, which will reduce overall costs. With the new U. S. Stimulus Package favoring solar energy, many will keep a keen eye on this technology going forward.