Rover Technology Could Improve Solar Power efficiency

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"Space exploration technology could solve the world's energy problems."

Technology designed for Mars exploration could hold the key to solving the world's energy problems by boosting solar power efficiency.

A self-cleaning system developed for NASA's Mars rover robots could keep solar panels free of dust and grime which hampers energy output.

The devices exploring Mars have sensors which detect dust build-ups and zap the surface of their solar panels with an electrical charge to keep them shiny, reports the Telegraph.

Malay Mazumder of Boston University, who helped create the technology, said it could help step-up efficiency of large solar power plants, especially those situated in arid and dusty desert locations.

"A dust layer of four grams per square meter decreases solar power conversion by 40%," said Mazumder.

"In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at over four times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in Australia, the Middle East and India."

The technology, used on the Mars rovers since they landed on the planet in 2004, involves coating the solar panel surface with electrodes of Indium tin oxide, a transparent, electrically-sensitive material.

Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level.

Electrodes on the panels then produce a cascading wave of electrostatic pulses, which shake off the dust leaving them clean and more energy efficient.

Mazumder said the process removes about 90% dust in two minutes and uses only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

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