Space Solar cell hits 29% efficiency

Spectrolab claims to have set a new world record by manufacturing satellite solar cells able to convert 29 percent of the sun’s rays into spacecraft power.

This surpasses its most recent record of 27 percent, announced in April, for a space solar cell, and comes only seven months after a record-breaking achievement in terrestrial solar cells with 32.3 percent efficiency.

‘We will be starting production of this second-generation, radiation-hard triple-junction cell in the third quarter of 2000. The average maximum power efficiency will be 27.4%, with an end-of-satellite-life efficiency of 24.1% after 15 years in geosynchronous orbit,’ says Dr. Lillington, acting President of Spectrolab.

Spectrolab’s research and development activities are jointly funded through the U.S. Air Force’s Dual Use Science and Technology development program.

‘This brings us closer to our ultimate goal of manufacturing solar cells with an average efficiency of 30 percent by 2001 and 35 percent by 2002,’ said Dr. Nasser Karam, Director of Advanced Programs and Optoelectronic Products. ‘Improved efficiency increases the satellite’s capacity, which results in increased revenue potential for its owner/operator.”

Spectrolab was the first company to introduce dual and triple-junction solar cells to the commercial marketplace, and has delivered more than 665 kilowatts of single, dual, and triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells to flight programs, with 160 kilowatts currently operating on 39 spacecraft.

These solar cells make it possible for Spectrolab to produce smaller, lighter arrays holding power levels constant, or more powerful arrays. Satellites with array power output in the range of 20 to 30 kilowatts, the power levels being demanded by Spectrolab customers like Hughes Space and Communications Company, will soon be possible with Spectrolab’s technology.

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