Solar Panels Are Getting More Advanced
Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, said that having solar panels collect water from the air to cool down is a simple yet effective way to boost their efficiency.
Worldwide, there are 600 gigawatts of solar power capacity, and they provide 3% of the global electricity demand. This number is set to increase over the next decade.
Most silicon cells convert about 20% of the sun’s energy that makes contact with them. The rest of it turns to heat. That heat can warm the solar panels up to 40°C or 104°F. Each degree of temperature over 25°C or 77°F lowers the efficiency of the panels.
Researchers in the past have discovered that water can cool down the solar panels and benefit their efficiency. However, those require having abundant water and storage tanks available, along with pipes and pumps. This makes it difficult for solar panels to be used in developing countries.
Absorbing Water From the Air
Most recently, researchers have come up with materials that can directly suck water vapor from the air and condense it to liquid water used for drinking.
There is a gel containing carbon nanotubes in polymers, along with water-attracting calcium chloride salt, which causes water vapor to condense into droplets that the gel will then hold.
As the temperature rises during the day, the gel then releases the water vapor. If the solar panels are covered in clear plastic, the vapor will be trapped, condensed into liquid water, and then flown into a storage container.