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Higher Solar Panel Light Output - Development of New Reactor for Production of Nano Materials

28 September 2017

Collaboration in Limburg speeds up solar panels innovation for applications including greenhouse cultivation.  Scientists at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences have developed a Flow Reactor for producing functional nano materials.  This will increase the light output of solar panels by anything between 5 & 10 percent.  This nano material can be incorporated into the solar cell's film & may find applications in the greenhouse / horticultural sector.  As far as we are aware, this is the first time that such a Flow Reactor has been developed. 

Presented at the Nanotechnology Crossing Borders Event in Maastricht on 28 September by Prof. Pascal Buskens, lecturer in Nanostructured Materials at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences & Principal Scientist at Brightlands Materials Centre & the TNO Research Institute.  Prof. Buskens developed the Flow Reactor in tandem with fellow lecturers Prof. Gino van Strijdonck (Material Sciences) & Dr. Zeger Vroon (Sustainable energy in the built environment), along with researchers at Zuyd University.  The reactor makes it possible to produce nano materials in a rapid & controlled manner, which can significantly increase the efficiency of solar panels.  

Across various sectors, the production of molecules & materials in batch reactors is migrating to Flow Reactors.  A good example of this is the pharmaceutical sector!  A batch reactor can be compared to an enormous pot which mixes & processes molecules, whereas in a Flow Reactor, this entire process takes place in thin tube.  Raw materials are dissolved in a solvent & guided through the reactor, emerging at the other end as a nano material.  Once the liquid is removed, the nano material can be processed in the film below the solar module's glass cover.

A great deal of scientific knowledge is involved in material synthesis in a Flow Reactor, however Limburg leads the way when it comes to finding commercial applications of this technology.  The choice made by Government, educational institutions & entrepreneurs to focus on certain areas of interest has delivered considerable benefits to date. The development of the Flow Reactor forms part of a project which has seen three Zuyd lecturers working closely together with ten specialist SME companies, Brightlands Materials Center & Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs (CHILL)

“As we possessed from the start all the required knowledge to create nano material from the Flow Reactor & apply this to solar panels, we were able to realise exceedingly high development speeds; this was a truly successful chain of knowledge transfer, working together on solutions,” explains Prof. Buskens. “Experts from all the previous & the subsequent phases were involved throughout the development; a great help to the entire project.”

Students from various Zuyd University courses played a significant role during the sub phases of the development.  They have for example contributed to both the progress & the construction of the Flow Reactor.  Four students worked on the nano material's synthesis & a Team of students was set up to consider, along with their lecturers & specialist Companies, how the nano material could be best integrated in the film.  HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen will investigate if the same nano material can be used in greenhouse horticulture to improve the light output in greenhouses & by doing so increase crop yields.

Partners in the Flow4Nano-project are Zuyd Hogeschool, HAN, TNO, Brightlands Materials Center, Kriya Materials, Chemtrix, Nanohouse, OMT Solutions, Hielkema Testequipment, Eternal Sun, Emultech, Yparex, Mardenkro & CHILL. 

This project is co-financed by Nationaal Regieorgaan Praktijkgericht Onderzoek SiA.

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