Modeling the particle transport of electrodynamic screens to optimize dust removal from solar energy collectors
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Solar energy installations located in dry, arid regions chosen for their availability of sunlight often face the problem of dust accumulation, or "soiling", on their solar collector surfaces, requiring this dust to be cleaned regularly in order to maintain optimal power production. The electrodynamic screen (EDS) is a technology that can clean this dust off the surfaces of photovoltaic panels and concentrating solar power mirrors using no water and a minimum of power. The EDS is a series of conductive electrodes embedded between two thin dielectric layers, where voltages applied across the electrodes create a patterned electric field which directs the motion of charged dust particles off the EDS surface. As the dust in different desert regions across the world have different physical characteristics, a different set of design parameters is required for the optimal EDS for each region. This optimization work could be easily conducted using a computer model of the physics of an EDS and the dust it clears off its surface. In this thesis, a computer model of the EDS system is created using COMSOL Multiphysics. This model simulates the voltages applied across the electrodes and the resulting electric fields, and then use these to simulate the trajectories of the charged dust particles as they move across the EDS surface. This particle tracing work is validated using experimental data from high-speed camera trials and performance data for different EDS designs. This validation work shows both agreements and disagreements between the predicted and observed dust particle motion, and the beginnings of the investigation into this difference is presented. Finally, the ability to further develop this model for EDS design optimization is discussed.