Lightweight Solar Cells for Space and Defense

United Solar Ovonic announced that the Air Force Research Laboratory (Kirtland AFB, NM) has awarded the company a $6.7 million, 18-month contract to continue development of its ultra-lightweight, high-efficiency solar cell technology for use in space and airship vehicles addressing defense and homeland security applications.

“Our performance goals for the next generation solar arrays include lighter, more stowable and lower cost than those currently available,” said Donna Senft, Program Manager of the AFRL Advanced Power Generation Program at Kirtland AFB. United Solar Ovonic’s triple-junction modules, originally developed for terrestrial applications, are made of amorphous silicon-based thin-film alloys, which are deposited on a 5-mil flexible stainless steel substrate. The radiation hardness and superior high-temperature performance of amorphous silicon make it an attractive material for space application. By using a polymeric substrate, the new space cells will have a specific power density greater than 1000 W/kg. Lightweight solar is particularly crucial for space-based applications. “This is a valuable technology that will be very beneficial to AFRL and to our nation’s security,” said Subhendu Guha, President and COO of United Solar Ovonic. United Solar Ovonic recently broke ground for a second 25-MW module manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan due to growing demand for its solar products.
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