A water drop on a hydrophobic surface

Loughborough University development to improve solar panel efficiency

A new development at Loughborough University could fix a “significant problem” within the solar panel industry.

A team, led by Professor Michael Walls from the University’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST), has worked on a new way to improve the cover glass for solar modules – which increases the amount of light transmitted into the panel whilst decreasing the amount of soiling clinging to the surface.

The new concept aims to reduce the number of panels with anti-reflective coatings – with 90% of modules currently unable to withstand regular cleaning.

Academics at the University found the standard anti-reflective coatings used by the solar industry are easily damaged by abrasion during cleaning.  In addition, the coatings are ‘hydrophilic’ which means they are more likely to adhere to dust or other soiling. Soiling on the panel prevents light getting to the active part of the module and reduces the power being generated.

Professor Walls said: “The issues surrounding the solar panel industry will only become greater as time moves on, as the industry is growing at a staggering rate. Solar use is forecast to exceed coal by 2027 to become the most important source of electricity generation across the globe.”

“This project addresses the significant problems of reflection and soiling to increase the power output from solar modules.

“We use a polymer to glass laminate. The polymer faces the sun and has a very low reflection – much lower than glass. At the same time, it is highly hydrophobic so soiling doesn’t easily stick and makes the surface much easier to clean.”

“Crucially, the polymer/glass laminate is robust and abrasion resistant. Although the industry is conservative, the advantages are compelling. If the industry adopts the technology, the economic and environmental impact will be substantial.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 24/73

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme and named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2024 QS World University Rankings – the eighth year running.

Loughborough is ranked 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2025, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2024 and 10th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.