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Robot cleans solar panels

Ridha Azaiz, an aspiring German engineer, had a dream. He wanted to build a robot that restores the efficiency of solar power systems by cleaning the panels so they function properly.

In 1997 Ridha Azaiz was thirteen, and it bothered him that if a solar power system wasn’t cleaned, the energy yield of the solar panels rapidly decreased.

In 1998, tinkering with his invention led Ridha to the Youth Research Foundation and onto television with his cleaning robot. 

Solarbrush made its way to Berlin in 2009, then onto California and now into the Middle East countries, such as Abu Dhabi.

A dirty solar power system only produces two thirds of its power, so Ridha Azaiz has come up with a solution: Often, sand deposits are a major problem for solar panels.

Ridha Azaiz's robot brushes sand and dust from solar panels until all the particles fall into the gaps away from each panel and onto the ground.

Other robots suck, wash and clean the panels with water and detergent. These devices are difficult to use and require pumps and pipes which are usually more expensive than a small car.

However, Solarbrush produced in higher quantities would only cost around US$3,000 per robot.

The robot is designed for dry cleaning and walks on solar modules with high inclination of at least 30 degrees. Suction cups, also known as vacuum bulbs, attach the robot to the surface.

It detects the end of the modules and steps over the frame of the modules onto the next module. It does so for the maximum distance of 30 mm. The robot carries a rechargeable and replaceable battery.

The largest competitors are currently unskilled workers who use simple methods, such as window cleaning to clean solar power plants.

This is a gargantuan task – equivalent to cleaning a set of panels the size of 200 football fields. If the panels are located in dry desert-like area, this is not a pleasant job.

Solarbrush ( is a robot designed to clean solar power systems, which maintains the efficiency and economy of solar cells.Currently, four Solarbrush robots at a time need to be supervised by a service team.

The robot needs to be manually moved from one row of solar panels to the next.

The device uses standard components from the industry, keeping down maintenance costs.

The robot cleans the solar modules in a structured pattern, unlike most robots for domestic use.

The gentle brush and the light weight of 2.5 kg are designed to be sensitive to the surface. The battery lasts for two hours and Azaiz is working to increase this. The target velocity is 1 m² / minute.

Major solar cell producers claim that there is no need to clean solar modules. However studies state that cleaning can raise efficiencies by 3% to 10 % in Europe and up to 35% in the Middle East.

Azaiz remarked: "Solarbrush is now growing fast, I need exploratory investors and partners for distribution."

Check out the demonstration video.


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