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Air Force Develops New Multi-Junction Solar Cell Technology

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has reported the development of solar cell technology designed to augment power supply capacities for space missions.

Inverted Metamorphic Multi-Junction Solar Cells that are made as lighter and more efficient solar cell variants, the Air Force said Thursday.

Standard multi-junction solar cells undergo growth on germanium substrates and use multiple sheets of light-absorption materials.

The currently-used multi-junction cells needed further development to address efficiency limits caused by increasing power needs and mass capacities.

To address these limits, the collaboration intended to develop a new cell architecture involving an upside-down growth process for cell manufacturing with the use of semiconductor materials, resulting to the creation of IMM solar cells.

“AFRL began looking at this specific technology back in the mid-2000s, recognizing that increasing power needs of spacecraft would require more efficient solar technologies,” said Kerry Bennington, an electronics engineer at the AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

“We found that by growing cells upside down on gallium arsenide, we can more effectively tailor the material properties of the individual absorbing layers,” Bennington added.

The new cells were observed to generate 15 percent more power than standard multi-junction cells, and are ran through an ongoing evaluation to meet requirements imposed by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics S-111 standard.

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