I've seen a fast spinning glass wheel used in front of a camera to clear away water, dust or ice.

Could Solar panels be made circular and spin to clear dust off of them in the same way may?

As opposed to the proposal in another question about Brushing clean a Mars lander's solar panels, here it is the panels that sling off the dust.

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    $\begingroup$ If you have a brush why would you need to spin it? $\endgroup$ – GdD Apr 17 '19 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ Close duplicate with space.stackexchange.com/questions/32445/…. A link to the self cleaning window would improve things. $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Apr 17 '19 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ Martian*** dust $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Apr 17 '19 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Brushing clean a Mars lander's solar panels $\endgroup$ – Antzi Apr 18 '19 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh in his defense I could see how he thought the brush was the main mechanicism but it was not. $\endgroup$ – Muze Apr 18 '19 at 23:04

I worked in R&D for a solar cell / panel company. Here's my thoughts:

Dust does reduce the power to solar cell significantly. A few options:

  1. Spinning - Could be done but would need to withstand the following: a. Dust storms - seems like you would need a lock down mechanism b. rotating required high voltage and current going through a rotary union. These are not the most robust mechanisms but possible. c. Not sure it would remove as much of the fine dust as other possible solutions.

  2. Water or soap and water - what is used normally on earth. I'm assuming water is too valuable but it's very effective.

  3. Brushes - Either automated or even as simple as a person in a space suit with a brush. Seems simple and robust. The coatings on the solar cell glass will need to withstand the brushing without scratching the coating. This can be an issue with some of the more efficient solar panel coatings, so it might cost a small amount of power. However, thinking about it, with the dust storms you would probably need a more robust coating regardless.

  • $\begingroup$ The Dust storms on Mars isn't that violent, just dusty. $\endgroup$ – Muze Apr 18 '19 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe a coating in which dust does not adhere to the panels. $\endgroup$ – Muze Apr 18 '19 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ They've worked on coatings that don't adhere for desert solar farms where water is scare. You actually want a coating that is micro rough so the sun rays don't reflect and are absorbed into the glass. Like everything, it's always trade-offs. Also, the panels on mars will be space solar cells that are much more efficient and expensive then what I've worked on. I'm not sure their experience with these issues. $\endgroup$ – Rob Rogers Apr 18 '19 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ Muze, I've included an answer on your other question. $\endgroup$ – Rob Rogers Apr 18 '19 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ How about electrostatically charging the panel or rapidly pulsing an electrostatic field to repel dust particles? $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Apr 19 '19 at 16:56

From a mechanical, engineering view, having a brush on a robotic arm to clean the solar panel is more favorable, than rotating the panel. Having a current transfer between the rotating solar panel and the standing probe is highly problematic and would cause likely more problems, than the dust itself.

Note, although that dust played a role in the end of life of the Spirit and Opportunity, both probes survived far longer than it was expected.

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry peter ... $\endgroup$ – Muze Apr 18 '19 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't even have to be as complex as robot arm. Just a track-mounted brush or 'windshield wiper' type arrangement. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 19 '19 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ For everyone to be happy, there should be a fixed brush and a slowly rotating panel swept by the brush. Vinyl + reading head style. $\endgroup$ – qq jkztd Apr 22 '19 at 9:53

Yes, but its worth nothing that getting mass to mars is crazy expensive. PV cells themselves can be made very light as they aren't subject to much force. To be mass efficient you can't add heavy cleaning devices.

  • $\begingroup$ PV cells used on Mars should resist all forces caused by the transport to Mars, the rocket launch with its vibrations and maximum acceleration as well as entry and landing to Mars. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 10 '19 at 16:26

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