Testing solar cells for service in spaceS. Himmelstein | May 16, 2022
The utility of perovskite solar cells on Earth has attracted interest in the potential of this photovoltaic semiconductor material to help power space missions. To effectively gauge their performance under cosmic conditions, guidelines have been devised to test the radiation-tolerating properties of perovskites intended for use in space.
High tolerance to radiation that suggests that perovskites could be used to provide power for space satellites and spacecraft, but rigorous testing protocols designed specifically for these materials are needed. Testing protocols established for conventional space photovoltaic technologies based on silicon and gallium semiconductors are not applicable for perovskite semiconductors, owing to the latter’s soft lattices and markedly different device architectures.
To formulate appropriate analytical methods, researchers relied on a Monte Carlo simulation that models the passage of ions through matter. Particle accelerators are used to test radiation tolerance, but it is crucial to select the right particle energy and to know how that test condition relates to the complex radiation spectra the panels would be exposed to in space.
After protons were identified as the initial focus, simulations modeled shooting protons with various energies at a perovskite solar cell and determined how the proton beams would interact. High-energy protons went right through the thin perovskite cells in the simulation while low-energy protons are adequately absorbed and damage the structure of the perovskite. This observation allowed the researchers to measure how that radiation damage corresponds to the ability of the solar cell to generate electricity. High-energy protons create more heat within the perovskite, which creates an added complication in the understanding of radiation tolerance. This differs from conventional solar cells where high-energy protons and electrons are used to determine the effects of radiation.
Scientists from U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Oklahoma, California Institute of Technology, The Aerospace Corporation (California), NASA Glenn Research Center (Ohio), University of Colorado, University of North Texas and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (New Mexico) contributed to this research, which is published in Joule.