KAUST: No Water, Mechanical, Automated, Dusting Device (NOMADD) for Solar Panels

KAUST Solar ic8dbMM9X_FMPublished on Jun 23, 2014

How do you remove the “dust” from hundreds of acres of Solar Panels? (Video)


The No Water, Mechanical, Automated, Dusting Device for photovoltaic installations (NOMADD) effectively removes dust without requiring any water or labor. This environmentally friendly technology enables more widespread use of solar photovoltaics in arid regions and helps to conserve the Earth’s water resources and harness the full potential of solar energy.


This technology is part of KAUST’s technology commercialization program that seeks to stimulate development and commercial use of KAUST-developed technologies. For more information, contact us at IP@kaust.edu.sa.


Translating Science into Business: The Business of Organic Semiconductors


KAUST karl

“There are many things which can go wrong when starting a company; but the worst thing that can go wrong is to not do it,” said Prof. Karl Leo, Director of KAUST’s Solar & Photovoltaics Engineering Research Center, when speaking at an Entrepreneurship Center speaker series event this past spring. Wearing the dual hats of scientist and entrepreneur, Prof. Leo is the author of 440 publications, holds more than 50 patents, and has co-created 8 companies which have generated over 300 jobs.

A physicist by training, Prof. Leo highlighted the point that he is primarily a scientist who stumbled onto business by chance. “For me it’s always started with and been about the science,” he says. All his spin-off companies came about as a result of basic research he and his group conducted on organic semiconductors. Speaking specifically to the young KAUST researchers hoping to emulate his success as academics and entrepreneurs, Prof. Leo said: “The message I want to pass along is if you really want to do things, just be curious. Don’t say I want to do research to make a company. Do very basic research and the spin-off ideas will come along.”

The Growing Influence of Organic Semiconductors

Prof. Karl Leo started doing research on organic semiconductors about 20 years ago. He has since been passionate about this field’s developments and future potential. Despite his early skepticism resulting from the ephemeral lifetime of organic semiconductors in the ’90s, the performance levels of LED devices for instance have gone from just a few minutes of useful life then to virtually not aging today. “In the long-term, as in 20 to 30 years from now, almost everything will be organics,” he believes. “Silicon has dominated electronics for a long time but organic is something new.” Organic products have evolved into a variety of applications such as: small OLED displays, OLED televisions, OLED lighting, OPV and organic electronics.

Organics, as opposed to traditional silicon-based semiconductors, are by nature essentially lousy semiconductors. Mobility, or the speed at which electrons move on these materials, is a really important property. However, when looking at the electronic properties of semiconductors, carbon offers interesting developments for the performance of organics. For instance, graphene, which is a carbon-based organic material, has even higher mobility than silicon.

Organic Semi untitled

One of the companies Prof. Karl Leo co-founded and began operating out of Dresden, Germany in 2003, Novaled, became a leader in in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) field. OLEDs are made up of multiple thin layers of organic materials, known as OLED stacks. They essentially emit light when electricity is applied to them. Novaled became a pioneer in developing highly efficient and long-lifetime OLED structures; and it currently holds the world record in power efficiency. They key to Novaled’s success, as Prof. Leo explains, is “the simple discovery that you can dope organics.” This was a major breakthrough achieved simply adding a very little amount of another molecule.

This organic conductivity doping technology, used to enhance the performance of OLED devices, was the main factor leading to the company being purchased by Samsung in 2013.

Organic Photovoltaics: Technology of the Future

Following the successful commercial penetration of OLED displays in the consumer electronics market, Prof. Karl Leo has since turned his focus on organic photovoltaics. “I think organic PV is something that can change the world,” said Leo. Among the many advantages of organic photovoltaics are that they are thin organic layers which can be applied on flexible plastic substrates. They consume little energy, can be made transparent, and are compatible with low-cost large-area production technologies. Because they are transparent, they can be made into windows for instance, and also be manufactured in virtually any color. All these characteristics make organic PV ideal for consumer products.

Again based on basic research conducted by his group, Prof. Leo also started a company, Heliatek, which is now a world-leader in the production of organic solar film. Heliatek has developed the current world record in the efficiency of transparent solar cells. The company also holds the record for efficiency of opaque cells at 12 percent. Leo believes that it’s possible to achieve up to 20 percent efficiency in the near future, which will be necessary to compete with silicon and become commercially viable.

Don’t Believe Business Plans

Prof. Leo explained that the experience he and his team gained from launching a successful company like Novaled helped them to both define the objectives and obtain funding from investors for his solar cell company, Heliatek. “Once you create a successful company, things get much easier,” he said. But Leo also cautioned the budding entrepreneurs in the audience to be willing to adapt as they present and implement their ideas.

“If you have a good idea and you are convinced you have a good idea, never give up,” he said. But being able to adapt to market needs is also crucial. For instance, Leo’s original business plan for Novaled focused on manufacturing displays. But the realities of the market, and the prohibitive cost of manufacturing displays, convinced his team that the smarter way to go was to supply materials. At the end of the day, what really succeeded in getting a venture capital firm’s attention, after haven been told no 49 times, was his team’s ability to demonstrate the value of the technology.

“Business plans are useful but they must not be overestimated,” said Prof. Leo. Business plans are a good indicator of how entrepreneurs are able to structure their thoughts, identify markets and create a roadmap, but “nobody is able to predict the future in a business plan; it’s not possible.”


Definition of Organic Semi-Conductors: Background

An organic semiconductor is an organic material with semiconductor properties, that is, with an electrical conductivity between that of insulators and that of metals. Single molecules, oligomers, and organic polymers can be semiconductive. Semiconducting small molecules (aromatic hydrocarbons) include the polycyclic aromatic compounds pentacene, anthracene, and rubrene. Polymeric organic semiconductors include poly(3-hexylthiophene), poly(p-phenylene vinylene), as well as polyacetylene and its derivatives.

There are two major overlapping classes of organic semiconductors. These are organic charge-transfer complexes and various linear-backbone conductive polymers derived from polyacetylene. Linear backbone organic semiconductors include polyacetylene itself and its derivatives polypyrrole, and polyaniline.

At least locally, charge-transfer complexes often exhibit similar conduction mechanisms to inorganic semiconductors. Such mechanisms arise from the presence of hole and electron conduction layers separated by a band gap.

Although such classic mechanisms are important locally, as with inorganic amorphous semiconductors, tunnelling, localized states, mobility gaps, and phonon-assisted hopping also significantly contribute to conduction, particularly in polyacetylenes. Like inorganic semiconductors, organic semiconductors can be doped. Organic semiconductors susceptible to doping such as polyaniline (Ormecon) and PEDOT:PSS are also known as organic metals


Further Information

Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out!

Organ on a chip organx250Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out! Read All About It!


Visit Our Website: www.genesisnanotech.com

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Chairman Terry: “Nanotech is a true science race between the nations, and we should be encouraging the transition from research breakthroughs to commercial development.”

WASHINGTON, DCThe Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on:

“Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.”




“Great Things from Small Things!” … We Couldn’t Agree More!


Observing & Understanding Energy Storage with Electron Tomography: “Super-Capacitors & the Rapidly Growing Market”

electron-tomographyWei Chen, a recent Ph.D. graduate student from the group of Dr. Husam Alshareef, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, recently collaborated with KAUST’s Imaging and Characterization Lab scientists to explain the mechanism underpinning the charge storage process in a common supercapacitor material and its behavior during charge/discharge cycling.


Supercapacitors are energy storage devices that fill the gap between batteries and electrostatic capacitors. They have a high power density and yet enough energy density to allow them to be used to power portable devices or to compliment batteries in electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The market size for supercapacitors is growing extremely fast, and they are already appearing in many applications, including portable power tools, cranes, intercity trains, and street lamps.There are two common types of supercapacitors. The first type, the double-layer capacitor, relies primarily on carbon-based electrodes, which store charge much like a conventional electrostatic capacitor found in electronic circuits. The second type, called an ultracapacitor or pseudocapacitor, utilizes the so-called pseudocapacitive materials, which include transition metal oxides such as MnO2, to achieve even higher capacitance.



These pseudocapacitive materials undergo Faradic reactions and provide an additional charge storage mechanism. This means that pseudocapacitive electrodes can produce supercapacitors with a much higher energy density. However, a problem with pseudocapacitive materials is their cycling stability: they typically show a drop in capacitance as they are cycled between charge/discharge processes.

Using electron tomography and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Chen and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Rakhi Raghavan Baby collaborated with KAUST Core Labs scientists Qingxiao Wang and Nejib Hedhili, to show how the morphology and crystal phase of manganese oxide electrodes affect their energy storage density and, more importantly, their unique behavior during charge/discharge cycling.

By using 3-D tomography, the team established how the morphological evolution of the electrode increases its surface area, leading to enhanced energy densities. Furthermore, through the use of a combination of tomography and spectroscopy, the team showed that the electrolyte actually etches nanoscale openings in the manganese oxide sheet electrodes, which surprisingly enhanced the electrolyte permeability and increased the energy density of the device during cycling.

“This work improves our understanding of manganese oxide, one of the most promising pseudocapacitive materials for energy storage applications, and acts as a guide for future experiments,” said Prof. Alshareef.

The results from this project were published in Advanced Functional Materials (DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201303508). Prof. Alshareef’s group has been active in the area of energy storage, focusing on electrode material development for supercapacitors, Li-ion batteries, and more recently Na-ion batteries.

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