Perovskite and organic solar cells have proven to be promising alternatives to silicon and are now being tested in space for the first time.
These solar cells not only performed well, but they are much thinner and lighter than those used today and were found to absorb even the scattered light reflected from the Earth.
Silicon has been the material of choice for solar cells for decades and has served its purpose well so far. But it could soon be replaced by perovskite, which has progressed very rapidly over the last decade and is already approaching that of silicon in efficiency.
Another increasingly attractive option is organic solar cells. They may not compete with silicon in terms of efficiency, but they are much thinner, more flexible, and much cheaper to produce on a large scale.
And now the two perovskite as organic solar cells were tested in space for the first time. In a new study by researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), two versions of each type of these solar cells were attached to a rocket launched from northern Sweden, which made a short round trip suborbital at a maximum altitude of 240 km.
The solar cells withstood the extreme conditions of launch and flight, and successfully collected sunlight during their seven minutes in space. They might not be as efficient as silicon, but they get the job done on smaller surfaces. And in space flight, size and weight should be kept to a minimum.
What matters in this business is not efficiency, but the electrical energy produced by weight, which is called specific power. The new type of solar cells reached values between 7 and 14 milliwatts per square centimeter during the flight of the rocket.
Peter Müller-Buschbaum, lead author of the study.
What’s even more interesting is that these solar cells were able to absorb energy even as they moved away from the Sun.It appears that they were able to collect the faint light reflected from the surface of the Earth, which traditional solar cells usually don’t.
It’s a good test and confirms that the technology can go on what’s called deep space missions, where we would send them far into space, away from the Sun, where standard solar cells wouldn’t work. There is a very exciting future for this type of technology, taking these solar cells to more space missions in the future.
Of course, a seven-minute test in space isn’t something to be drawn from too many conclusions, so in the future, researchers hope to test perovskite and organic solar cells on satellites.
More information: www.cell.com