Rocket tests perovskite solar cells in space

Rocket tests perovskite solar cells in space

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in Germany have tested out perovskite solar cells on a space flight

Two different types of organic and perovskite solar cells were tested in space for the first time on a research flight as part of the MAPHEUS 8 program at the European Space and Sounding Rocket Range in Kiruna, Sweden. The rocket reached a height of nearly 240km.

“The best perovskite solar cells currently achieve efficiency levels of 25 percent,” says Peter Mueller-Buschbaum, Professor of Functional Materials at the TUM Department of Physics in Munich. “These thin solar cells, less than one micrometer thick, applied to ultra-thin, flexible synthetic sheet, are extremely lightweight. They can therefore produce nearly 30 watts per gram.”

The perovskite cells can be manufactured at room temperature from solution and exceeded power densities between 7 and 14 mW/cm2 on the flight and collected energy at wide angels of sunlight. The paper is here.

“These organic solutions are very easy to process,” said researcher Lennart Reb. “Thus the technologies open up new fields of application in which conventional solar cells were simply too unwieldy or too heavy – and that also applies far beyond the aerospace sector.”

“Our MAPHEUS program allows us rapidly to implement experiments in a zero-gravity environment, offering exciting research findings,” said Professor Andreas Meyer, co-author and Head of the DLR Institute of Materials Physics in Space. “This time it went particularly quick: it took us less than a year to progress from the initial idea to the maiden flight of the solar cells as part of the MAPHEUS 8 program.”

“Electrical measurements during the flight and the evaluation after recovery of the rocket showed that perovskite and organic solar cells can achieve their potential in terms of expected performance in orbit height,” said Mueller-Buschbaum.

The solar cells also generated electrical energy under diffuse incidence of light. “Cells turned away from the sunlight, which received only sparse lighting exclusively from the earth during the flight, still supplied electricity,” said Reb.

Due to their much thinner thickness, the new solar cells could therefore also be used in much dimmer light, for example on missions to the outer solar system on which the sun is too weak for conventional space solar cells.

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