From Kitchen Garden to Multifunctionality

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From Kitchen Garden to Multifunctionality

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Harvesting solar power is a crucial element in the shift towards sustainability. However, many factors can significantly reduce the effectiveness of solar panels. One major challenge is keeping them clean, as dust and sand can build up and block sunlight over time. Could nature provide a solution for protecting solar panels?

We have been exploring different plants and replicating their surface structures. While the exotic lotus leaf is often a source of bioinspiration for self-cleaning, many common garden plants, such as leek, possess desirable surface properties. Leeks have self-cleaning leaves due to their surface microstructure and natural wax layer. This combination allows water droplets to roll off easily, cleaning dust and dirt in the process, also known as self-cleaning property. But what if besides providing self-cleaning, our solution could also improve the efficiency of solar panels?

In this study, we demonstrated how leek-inspired surface structures introduce optical and self-cleaning properties to cellulose-based films — derived from renewable resources—, making them attractive for solar panel applications. This way, two significant challenges in solar energy could be addressed: maintaining panel cleanliness and maximizing light absorption. The films’ self-cleaning can maintain the panels' efficiency over time by washing away dirt and dust that can block light. In terms of optical properties, the replicated films show a high total transmittance of light, and furthermore, the film’s structure contributes to forward scattering of light which is also known for improving the efficiency of some solar energy technologies. In practical terms, this means higher efficiency along with less maintenance and cleaning of solar panels, reducing operational costs and downtime.

We invite you to read the original work using this link. There, we elaborate on our replicating process, and investigate various properties of the films, including surface morphology, water contact angle, and total light transmittance. We also went a step further and put the films into application and reported their effect on perovskite solar cells. While we continue to learn from nature to develop smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable solutions, this work highlights the importance of interdisciplinary approaches in solving complex challenges.

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Follow the Topic

Bioinspired Materials
Physical Sciences > Materials Science > Soft Materials > Bioinspired Materials
Physical Sciences > Materials Science > Soft Materials > Wetting
Optical Materials
Physical Sciences > Materials Science > Optical Materials
Solar Cells
Physical Sciences > Materials Science > Materials for Devices > Photonic Devices > Solar Cells
Surface Patterning
Physical Sciences > Materials Science > Materials Characterization Technique > Surface Patterning

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