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Move over robots — there’s a new cleaning method for solar panels

August 10, 2023

Velocity company optimizes solar energy efficiency using nanotechnology

With their abundance of sunlight, deserts are valuable locations to harness solar energy. But in addition to sun, deserts also have an abundance of dust which settles on solar panels and reduces their efficiency.

This is the problem that Miswar Syed’s new company, Swish, is trying to solve with the help of Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator.

“I grew up in Saudi Arabia, a place which could be using much, much more solar energy than it does; but solar panels in Saudi deserts are only cleaned a few times a week using robots or water, which gets expensive — the robots use a lot of energy and the water has to be desalinated,” Syed said.

“Swish is making transparent screens that retrofit on an existing solar panel and can remove the dust using nanotechnology — panels can be cleaned multiple times a day with just a flip of a switch.”

Miswar Syed pitching Swish at Velocity $5K Spring term finals

He said as an undergraduate student in Saudi Arabia, he questioned why a country so rich in sunlight isn’t fully utilizing it as an energy source, even as the nation is implementing clean energy goals.

“That got me curious: why don’t we use [solar energy] as much as we’re supposed to?” Syed said.

Motivated to solve this problem by commercializing the research, Syed said he chose the University of Waterloo for its productive entrepreneurship ecosystem. He joined Velocity on campus earlier this year, and in July won the flagship Velocity $5K pitch competition and GreenHouse’s Social Impact Showcase.

Read more on Waterloo News.