Ultrathin Solar Cells Promise Improved Satellite Performance

Radiation damage to photovoltaics in orbit can be reduced by making the cells thinner

Most space satellites are powered by photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight to electricity.

Exposure to certain types of radiation present in orbit can damage the devices, degrading their performance and limiting their lifetime.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge proposed a radiation-tolerant photovoltaic cell design that features an ultrathin layer of light-absorbing material.

When solar cells absorb light, they transfer its energy to negatively charged electrons in the material. These charge carriers are knocked free and generate a flow of electricity.

 Irradiation in space causes damage and lowers efficiency by displacing atoms in the solar cell material and reducing the lifetime of the charge carriers.

Making photovoltaics thinner should increase their longevity because the charge carriers have less far to go during their shortened lifetimes.

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