A novel three-dimensional solar cell design developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) will soon receive its first space testing aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
An experimental module containing 18 test cells was launched to the ISS in July and installed on the exterior of the station. In addition to testing the three-dimensional format, the module will also study a low-cost copper-zinc-tin-sulfide (CZTS) solar cell formulation.
Built by coating miniature carbon nanotube “towers” with a photo-absorber that captures sunlight from all angles, the 3-D cells could boost the amount of power obtained from the small surface areas many spacecraft have.
“We want to see both the light-trapping performance of our 3-D solar cells and how they are going to respond to the harshness of space,” said Jud Ready, a GTRI principal research engineer and an adjunct professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. — Rick Robinson
GTRI researcher Stephan Turano shows an optical microscope image of one of the carbon nanotube array patterns on a solar cell that will be tested on the International Space Station. The actual cell is visible on microscope stage under the objective. Photo: Gary Meek