The National Science Foundation has awarded a $746,366 grant to Fayetteville's WattGlass to further develop a University of Arkansas patent-pending coating technology that makes glass anti-reflective, self-cleaning and highly transparent.
The nanoparticle-based coating will increase the efficiency of solar panels and reduce their cleaning and maintenance costs, said Corey Thompson, chief technology officer for WattGlass, which is based at the UA's Arkansas Research and Technology Park.
"Solar panels collect dust, dirt and grime, which reduces output and increases the cost per watt," said Thompson, who founded the firm as a UA graduate student in 2014. "With our anti-reflective and self-cleaning coating, more light penetrates the glass to be turned into electricity by the solar cells."
The coating's nanostructure causes a self-cleaning effect on the glass by changing the way water reacts to its surface, Thompson said.
"When you put a drop of water on a normal piece of glass, the drop forms a bead and doesn’t generally move," he said in a news release. "With our coating, that drop of water spreads rapidly and when it does that it picks up dirt and other contaminants from the surface and literally pushes them to the edge of the glass. A light rain that would normally create mud on the surface of the panels suddenly is able to clean off the majority of the dirt."
The NSF Phase II grant is part of the Small Business Innovation Research Program, a federal program designed to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector.
Thompson said that the grant will enable WattGlass to add two employees.