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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Light-Weight, Flexible, High Efficiency Vacuum Photo-Thermo-Voltaic Solar Cells, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Conventional solar cells are limited in efficiency, require heavy weight for high power applications, and tend to degrade rapidly in the harsh radiation environment in space. nVizix LLC proposes to demonstrate a novel concept for high-efficiency solar cells (patent pending), based on the phenomenon of vacuum photoemission (with thermionic enhancement). Recent advances in the technology of optical detectors for high-energy physics (such as photomultiplier tubes), together with manufacturing techniques for flat-panel displays, have enabled a breakthrough in microfabricated solar cell arrays that are broadband and highly efficient, extremely lightweight, as well as extremely resistant to radiation damage and degradation with time. Efficiencies up to 50% are expected (80% theoretical) for space-based solar power. A prototype array of solar panels is proposed, consisting of 8 panels, each the size of a 3U nanosatellite (10 cm x 30 cm). Such an array would provide 150 W of power, while weighing only 100 grams, and being easily stowed, before deployment, inside a small portion of the 3U package. Phase I will demonstrate efficiency and low weight in a small research-scale cell, and project a deployable design for a 120 W array. Phase II will fabricate a prototype array and demonstrate performance at an appropriate NASA laboratory. More »

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