A thin coating of gold has been discovered to provide a new way to reduce the glare from solar panels and LED monitors as well as repelling moisture and stopping grime particles from adhering to the panels, which is a common cause of reduction in energy production by panels over time. The research, undertaken by University of California, Irvine researchers was reported on April 4 via a press release from the University and will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The coating can also be utilised to dull the glint from military weapons to improve their camouflage properties.
Moth eyeballs are made up of tiny cones that reduce glare. The researchers copied the pattern on a new, flexible material and coated it with a bit of gold to make a product that could improve solar panels, LED displays and disguising of weapons.
"We found that a very simple process and a tiny bit of gold can turn a transparent film black,"
said UC Irvine chemistry professor Robert Corn, whose group has created a patterned polymer material based on the findings, documented in recent papers. The postdoctoral associates and students were initially worried when they noticed what appeared to be soot on a flexible film they were designing to coat various products.
Via painstaking tests, though, the researchers realized that they'd accidentally discovered a way to fabricate a surface capable of eliminating glare, as reported in Nano Letters. They also learned that the material can keep grime in raindrops and other moisture from sticking.
To do it, the group etched a repeating pattern of cones modeled on moth eyeballs at the nanoscale on Teflon and other nonstick surfaces. They then applied a thin layer of gold over the cones and, voila, the shine from the gold and any light reflecting onto it was all but obliterated. The material is also highly hydrophobic, meaning it repels liquids.
Residents in some places complain when their neighbors installing highly reflective solar panels that unintentionally beam blinding sunlight onto their properties. In addition, troops risk enemy detection when sunshine bounces off weaponry and cellphone displays can be unreadable in bright light. The new coating could solve these issues.
UC Irvine's Office of Technology Alliances has filed a patent application for the work. "We're excited about where this technology might lead and who could be interested in exploring the commercial opportunities that this new advancement presents," said senior licensing officer Doug Crawford.
Corn, Mana Toma and Gabriel Loget are co-inventors on the patent and co-authors of the studies.
Mana Toma, Gabriel Loget, Robert M. Corn. Fabrication of Broadband Antireflective Plasmonic Gold Nanocone Arrays on Flexible Polymer Films.Nano Letters, 2013; 13 (12): 6164 DOI: 10.1021/nl403496a
Mana Toma, Gabriel Loget, Robert M. Corn. Flexible Teflon Nanocone Array Surfaces with Tunable Superhydrophobicity for Self-Cleaning and Aqueous Droplet Patterning. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2014; 140401150804007 DOI: 10.1021/am500735v