Slimming down solar cells

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Slimming down solar cells

Solar cells for space are typically grown on germanium metal disks. An ESA General Support Technology Program (GSTP) project investigated whether this rare, expensive metal could be removed and recycled, resulting in much thinner and cheaper solar cells for missions.

The activity tested a method in which the surface of the germanium substrate is treated so that a cavity is introduced directly below it. As soon as a solar cell has grown on the Ge surface, everything above it can be removed with this 0.001 mm thick gap or cavity, so that only a very thin layer of germanium adheres to the cell – about 10 micrometers thick instead of the previous 150.

This enormous weight and volume saving of a rare material leads to considerable cost savings, especially when they are multiplied by the approximately 10,000 solar cells required for every satellite mission.

For more than a quarter of a century, ESA’s optional GSTP has been preparing promising technologies for space and the open market. Read our GSTP Annual Report for 2019 to find out more about program activities.

similar links

ESA General Support Technology Program (GSTP)

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