Research: Improved satellite performance is promised by ultrathin solar cells
Middle Earth orbits must be used more frequently when low Earth orbit becomes clogged, necessitating the development of radiation-tolerant cell designs. Thicker photovoltaics should last longer since the charge carriers travel less distance over their shorter lives. A radiation-tolerant photovoltaic cell design with a very thin layer of light-absorbing material is suggested by scientists. After 20 years of operation, roughly 3.5 times less cover glass is required for the ultra-thin cells to produce the same amount of electricity as bigger cells.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge proposed a radiation-tolerant photovoltaic cell design that includes an ultrathin layer of light-absorbing material in the Journal of Applied Physics, published by AIP Publishing.
Light is absorbed by solar cells, which then transmit its energy to the negatively charged electrons present. When these charge carriers are knocked loose, an electrical current flows over the photovoltaic. By shifting atoms in the solar cell material and shortening the lifetime of the charge carriers, radiation from space damages solar cells and reduces their efficiency. Because the charge carriers have a shorter lifetime, making photovoltaics thinner should increase their longevity.
It becomes increasingly necessary to employ middle Earth orbits, such as the Molniya orbit that goes over the core of the Earth’s proton radiation belt, as low Earth orbit gets more congested with satellites. These higher orbits will require radiation-tolerant cell designs.
The investigation of additional planets and moons is yet another use for radiation-tolerant organisms. Jupiter’s moon Europa, for instance, has one of the solar system’s worst radiation environments. Radiation-tolerant electronics are necessary for solar-powered spacecraft to land on Europa.
Using the semiconductor gallium arsenide, the researchers created two different types of photovoltaic devices. One was an on-chip design constructed by stacking a number of different materials. The alternative design improved light absorption by using a mirror with a silver back.
Protons produced at the Dalton Cumbrian Nuclear Facility in the United Kingdom were used to bombard the gadgets in order to simulate the effects of radiation in space. Using a method known as cathodoluminescence, which can provide a measure of the degree of radiation damage, the performance of the photovoltaic devices was examined before and after irradiation. The efficiency of the devices’ conversion of sunlight into power following proton bombardment was examined in the second round of tests utilizing a Compact Solar Simulator.
For proton radiation beyond a particular threshold, our ultra-thin solar cell performs better than the thicker, earlier-examined devices. According to author Armin Barthel, “The ultra-thin geometries give beneficial performance by two orders of magnitude compared to earlier measurements.
According to the authors, the longer charge carriers live, the better these ultra-thin cells operate since they can move across device terminals.
After 20 years of operation, roughly 3.5 times less cover glass is required for the ultra-thin cells to produce the same amount of electricity as bigger cells. A lighter weight and significantly lower launch costs will result from this.