As Clean As Lotus

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HKUST students developed an anti-reflection and self-cleaning film for solar panel to encourage renewable energy usage

Solar Energy is well known as a mature technology for renewable energy, yet its popularity of daily life usage is low given its high set up and maintenance cost. A newly invented product by Sundial Technology may help to change this perception and encourage wider usage.

Formed by four HKUST students and advised by Prof Zhiyong Fan from the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Sundial Technology invented an anti-reflection and self-cleaning film for solar panel. The self-cleaning feature is applied from “Lotus Effect”, where dirt particles are picked up by water droplets due to the micro and nanoscopic architecture on the surface. The team estimated the cleaning of dirty solar panels claims about HK$15.6 billion in monetary term and 90 billion kilowatt-hour of energy in Mainland China every year, They said the nanomaterialfilm they invented would offer a solution to such huge losses in cost and efficiency.

One of the team members, Tsui Kwong Hoi, PhD student in Electronic and Computer Engineering explained the rationale of their research focus on solar energy, “Global warming is getting worse now, a carbon dioxide-free technology is needed to meet our energy demand.” Tsui believes it will be a great benefit to the community if their product could help to clear the hurdle of solar energy usage.

Seeing a huge benefit to the community and market potential, the research team considered commercializing the nanomaterialfilm. Yet opportunities often come with difficulties. “It is very difficult to scale up the production from laboratory scale to commercial product.” After several rounds of trial and error, the nanomaterial film bought the team the championship of HKUST One Million Dollar Competition.

Winning of the competition gave the team a big confidence to step further.  Good news is major solar panel producers have shown interest for product testing. Tsui concludes a good team and vision is the key of success of an entrepreneurship, while in the world of innovative entrepreneurship, research support is of no doubt another important factor. “HKUST (Energy Institute) provides me a space that I am able to work on the large scale production process for my research.”

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