Renewable energy plays a major role in “Decarbonization and Net-zero Carbon Emission”. But the integration hardships of renewable energy technologies in tough climatic areas restrict its applications in high latitude areas.
This is because extreme weather events caused as a result of global warming could bring sudden frost, snow, and ice to the surfaces of renewable energy devices, like wind turbine blades and photovoltaic (PV) panels.
To overcome this, Longnan Li from Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) together with his co-workers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have come up with a multifunctional coating material for ice, frost, and snow, enabling it to be removed from surfaces by making use of the “Pulsed Joule Heating” method.
This method involves pulsed interfacial Joule heating through thin conductive film, integrated with controlled surface wettability to achieve interfacial defrosting without bulk melting.
By melting an ultra-thin layer of snow, ice, and frost into water film, the leftover bulk accretion is eliminated under the synergetic effect of gravity (or shear forces like wind) and the thin water layer.
In comparison to the traditional Joule heating method, which would be highly energy-intensive to fully melt huge accretion, a single pulse of electrical current for heating the surface considerably decreases energy consumption and time.
This allows ultra-low energy density (Ein < 10 Jcm-2) and ultra-fast removal time (t ≈ 1 s) beyond what is available (Ein > 30 Jcm-2 and t > 1 minute) at present.
For the surface wettability and transmittance to be regulated, an easy and ultra-scalable hydrothermal method was employed to thin the aluminum layer present on the module glass to obtain nanoscale-thick aluminum oxyhydroxide nanostructures which are optically transparent.
The combination of optical superhydrophobicity and transparency on the same coating enables multi-functionality to allow “Pulsed Joule Heating”, self-cleaning, and lossless power generation on PV panels.
The technology might boost the widespread of renewable energy technologies, heat pump heat exchangers and transport electrifications in harsh climate areas, particularly those affected by the heavy show, frost and ice aggregations.
Longnan Li, Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Li, L., et al. (2022) Enabling Renewable Energy Technologies in Harsh Climates with Ultra-Efficient Electro-Thermal Desnowing, Defrosting, and Deicing. Advanced Functional Materials. doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202201521.