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1 December, 2017 - 11:57 By Tony Quested

Magnus Opus as another £1m backs new coatings technology scale-up

A new coatings technology from Cambridge has won further funding and entered fresh global field trials.

Opus Materials Technologies at St John’s Innovation Centre has secured close to £1million in funding from Innovate UK to validate and test the industrial rollout of a durable, self-clean coating, developed to optimise energy production of solar PV panels.

Extensive field trials of the technology are already underway in Dubai and the UK, with further pilot projects planned for the US, Kuwait, Chile.

As Business Weekly revealed in September, the technology being commercialised is based on Intellectual Property from Cambridge materials hothouse TWI.

Opus was founded in 2014 to explore multi-billion market opportunities for the TWI IP and recently secured over £3.5m funding in the EU and UK to develop anti-soiling and anti-icing coatings for use in the renewable energy and aerospace markets.

Opus, together with consortium partner Above Surveying, experts in aerial surveying using thermographic cameras and flight data logging equipment, are measuring and monitoring the impact extreme weather conditions have on the performance of this novel new coating, by conducting rigorous field trials in adverse geographical locations. 

Other members of the industrial consortium partners include TWI, Loughborough University and Cornelius Specialities Ltd.

Above Surveying is in parallel developing an automated soiling assessment methodology using a UAV, optical sensors and image data analytics to streamline data analysis processes.

Industry research has already proven that the accumulation of dirt and soiling on solar modules deployed in solar farms can reduce their power output by up to 50 per cent per month.

Not only are such large energy losses having a direct impact on O&M costs, they are reducing the perceived benefits of investing in solar energy in the developing world.

The new coating technology, branded as Solar Sharcâ, eliminates surface contamination problems caused by salt, dirt, dust or ash because it removes the need for manual cleaning.

Furthermore, its unique chemical composition, which produces a lotus leaf effect, dynamically repels external pollutants, making it mechanically resilient to environmental ageing.

“Extreme arid climates can have a detrimental effect on the performance of solar modules,” said David Hannan, business development director and exploitation manager for the Always Clean project. 

“Our materials-by-design approach to developing this nanotechnology coating means it can be fine-tuned to satisfy diverse requirements and locations without impacting its performance.”

Apart from offering significant operational and maintenance benefits, Solar Sharc®’s self-cleaning capabilities reduces water wastage, a valuable resource in arid & developing countries. 

The novel coating also has the potential to contribute in part to addressing the world energy trilemma (energy security, equity and environmental sustainability). 

The wider adoption of renewable technologies such as Solar PV can also assist global efforts to achieve carbon emission reduction targets of 2030.

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