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CASE STUDY: Materials Assessment of Smart Hydrogels for Solar PV Cooling


SPECIFIC offers valuable insight and performance data to companies with innovative, low-carbon technologies, enabling them to improve their existing products or processes.

A&B Smart Materials specialises in developing novel, smart hydrogels for cooling applications. The Oxford-based start-up approached SPECIFIC seeking support with the materials assessment of these newly developed hydrogels.

The hydrogels work by absorbing and evaporating moisture, creating a passive cooling effect. Passive cooling is beneficial for applications where thermal control is needed such as solar panels, EV batteries, electronic components, and specialised clothing. Solar panels, for instance, become less efficient when hot and so applying a coolant improves their power output.

Over a period of three months, SPECIFIC conducted a series of tests on the smart hydrogels both in the lab and in-situ. The lab stage was carried out by our thermochemical storage team who measured the moisture uptake. Six glass panels were coated with the hydrogel and tested using a modular humidity generator.

For the second stage, the hydrogel was applied to the rear side of five PV panels and mounted on a test rig at the SHED (Solar Heat Energy Demonstrator). We then monitored the panels for electrical performance and temperature response.

SPECIFIC was able to provide feedback to A&B Smart Materials about the formulation of the smart hydrogels and the experimental process.

Project partners: A&B Smart Materials


  • Support A&B Smart Materials with the development of their novel, smart hydrogel by conducting a materials assessment and sharing the results in a report.
  • Use SPECIFIC’s expertise and facilities to carry out laboratory experiments and in-situ assessments to acquire data on the performance of the hydrogels.


  • SPECIFIC was able to suggest changes to the formulation of the hydrogel to enhance cohesion and adhesion in keeping with the rigours faced by PV arrays.
  • SPECIFIC identified changes to the experimental process to obtain more data on the hydrogel’s performance, resulting in a new-to-firm process for A&B Smart Materials.
  • A&B Smart Materials has hired a new Research Assistant as a result of the collaboration.
  • Strengthened collaboration and research knowledge transfer between SPECIFIC and A&B Smart Materials.
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