Dirt and dust can reduce a solar panel's efficiency as much as 80%. The solution: solar panels that dust themselves, a trick they're picking up from their Mars-roving brethren.

At a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers introduced solar technology that knows when dirt is keeping it down—the panels first use sensors to determine when dust is rendering them inefficient and then send a charge across an electrically sensitive coating, bucking dust off the surface of the panels.

Malay Mazumder, the Boston University scientist who developed the technology, says that his panels can self-clean 90% of the dust covering them in just two minutes, and he believes that his is the only technology that can do so without water or mechanical parts.


He originally worked on the project in conjunction with NASA, creating solar-powered Mars rovers that wouldn't get bogged down during Martian dust storms. So, in a matter of speaking, these are Martian solar panels. Cool! Mazumder thinks that they'll be available commercially, here on Earth, sometime next year. [BBC]

Image credit Phidauex