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Partnership targets space-based solar tech

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:multijunction solar cell? III-V semiconductor? space application?

Azur Space Solar Power GmbH and Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have extended their cooperation agreement for the next 20 years. The collaboration will see the development and production of multijunction solar cells based on III-V semiconductors for applications in space.

Fraunhofer ISE stated that of all solar cells to date, the highest efficiencies for converting sunlight into electricity are achieved by multijunction solar cells based on III-Vs (typically gallium arsenide, aluminum gallium arsenide and�gallium indium phosphide). In contrast to silicon, III-Vs can be optimized to match specific wavelength ranges in the solar spectrum by precisely adjusting the atomic compositions, said the company. To produce a multijunction solar cell, several III-V-based solar cells, each of which absorbs a different part of the solar spectrum from the blue to infrared range, are monolithically stacked on top of each other. The cells are internally series connected by tunnel diodes. The resulting stack can consist of up to 40 single layers.

multijunction solar cell

Measuring a cell's calibrated current-voltage characteristic using a multisource solar simulator. Fraunhofer ISE.

In space, efficiencies of triple-junction cells are about 30 percent. III-V cells have been used to power satellites since 1995. However, the potential for this application has not yet been exhausted, noted Fraunhofer ISE.

In the future, III-V solar cells are expected to generate more electricity per cell area, weigh less and be more robust so that they can better withstand the highly charged particles encountered in orbit. Together with Azur Space, the researchers in Freiburg are addressing these aims and developing manufacturing processes for next-generation multijunction solar cells. The work is supported by the European Space Agency (ESA-ESTEC), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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