Physicists create perfect testing conditions of solar cells for space applications

May 4, 2022 11:21 AM ET
  • This new method for screening perovskite solar cells leads the way for their usage in powering objects that require the cells' radiation firmness and durability.
Physicists create perfect testing conditions of solar cells for space applications

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma, with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of North Texas, the NASA Glenn Research Center as well as several collaborators within the space power community, have actually just recently released a paper in the journal Joulethat defines the optimum conditions for testing perovskite solar cells for space.

Perovskites are a product utilized in a sort of solar cell, which are devices that convert light into electrical energy. Ian Sellers, a physicist at the University of Oklahoma as well as a co-author of the paper, stated perovskite solar cells are producing excitement in the photovoltaics community because of their quickly raising efficiency as well as their high tolerance to radiation that suggests they could be made use of to offer power for space satellites as well as spacecrafts.

Sellers, who is likewise the Ted S. Webb Presidential Professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics as well as Astronomy in the Dodge Family College of Arts as well as Sciences, as well as the associate director of the Oklahoma Photovoltaics Research Institute, has mentored multiple college student and also a postdoctoral researcher in this field. The previous postdoctoral researcher in Seller's laboratory, Brandon Durant, is currently a National Research Council Fellow residing at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and is among the co-authors of the paper.

" Perovskites are exciting to a lot of people in the photovoltaics community due to the fact that this new solar cell material can reach high effectiveness and has done so quickly and also relatively merely," Sellers said. "However these materials additionally have significant problems in regards to stability and also yield, particularly in weather-- dampness, oxygen weakens this product, so it was intriguing that there were a few individuals who suggested that regardless of these earthbound instability concerns, this system showed up radiation hard and ideal for space."

" The term 'radiation hard' is used by researchers to explain how much damages takes place in an object or device when it is a space setting," said Joseph Luther, an elderly researcher on the chemical materials and also nanoscience group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "It's fascinating, especially with perovskite products, since the semiconductors are known to be soft, however radiation hardness just means that they can endure the radiation caused flaws without a fast degradation in efficiency."

The trouble the team from OU, NREL and the University of North Texas laid out to resolve was exactly how relevant basic space screening of solar cells are for the perovskites.

" What we discovered was that perovskites are radiation hard but except the reasons many believed," Sellers said. "We found that the community generally is not testing them correctly. Perovskites are slim movies, and also they are likewise very soft, so if you make use of the space procedures developed for standard solar cells, the interaction of high-energy particles is minimal, indicating perovskites looked radiation hard since they weren't, in our opinion, being tested correctly."

To create a new means to examine the perovskites, Durant collaborated with Bibhudutta Rout, an associate professor in the Department of Physics at UNT in Denton, Texas, to determine the solar cells' radiation solidity under different conditions or radiation exposure.

" We began doing these extremely targeted radiation dependence tests by controllably stopping these particles in various parts of the solar cell," Sellers said. "So as opposed to making use of really high-energy particles, we were utilizing lower-energy particles, especially protons, given that these are much more unsafe for the perovskites and also are extremely widespread precede, pounding solar cells and also various other materials precede at reduced energies. When we did this, we validated that perovskites certainly are really radiation hard since they're soft as well as they're not really dense, so when they're harmed, they heal swiftly."

Sellers contrasts the result to a tub of water. The water starts as still. You can spray the water to wreak havoc, yet it will certainly return to stillness once the spilling quits.

" These perovskites are really close to being like a liquid, so when they're damaged, they self-heal," he said. "Perovskites, like a tub of water, will certainly be disordered and also damaged in space, however will likewise really rapidly work out or recover and return to regular. What we've done is to produce a method, a collection of conditions that perovskite cells should be evaluated at before they enter into space, so that the global community is evaluating these products properly and similarly."

Applications for this research opens up an array of possibilities. One location of research rate of interest consists of the investigation of perovskites' use in permanent setups on the moon, specifically in whether lightweight flexible perovskites could be sent out right into space folded up and efficiently deployed there, or perhaps made on the moon.

Also, future research might check out the utility of perovskite solar cells for space missions to planets like Jupiter that have an intense radiation environment or for satellite missions in polar orbits with high radiation levels.

" Space credentials of a new material is driven by mission needs," stated NASA Glenn Research engineer as well as co-author, Lyndsey McMillon-Brown. "This work is so crucial since we're penetrating the perovskites' response to radiation most appropriate to the applications NASA is most curious about."

"By coming together as well as specifying some protocols that the federal and the industrial space community have agreed with on the way these should be evaluated is a substantial step forward that is pioneering for how perovskites could be released precede," Sellers stated.

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