July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Science And Technology

Next-generation solar cells: boosting space energy with lanthanide-based luminescent coatings

A groundbreaking study has recently been presented that promises significant advances in photovoltaic (PV) technology for space applications. The principal investigators, Dr. Sandra Correia (University of Aveiro and the Instituto de Telecomunicações) and Professor Rute Ferreira (University of Aveiro and CICECO _ Institute of Materials of Aveiro), together with Dr. Lianshe Fu and Professor Paulo André (University of Lisbon and the Instituto de Telecomunicações) have developed a prototype with higher efficiency silicon-based photovoltaic cells to power spacecraft, using speed reduction layers (DSL) based on lanthanides. This study, published in the prestigious journal Optical Materials: X, presents a sophisticated but practical way to harness more solar energy in space, vital for long-term missions.

Multijunction solar cells have long been the standard for space applications due to their high energy conversion efficiency; However, its complex manufacturing process and high cost drive the need for more cost-effective alternatives, such as silicon-based photovoltaic cells. Dr. Sandra Correia explains: “One of the limitations of solar energy conversion is the mismatch between the solar spectrum and the absorption of the photovoltaic technology used.” The research team's work focuses on closing the efficiency gap by integrating lanthanide-doped hybrid materials such as DSL. These layers are designed to convert ultraviolet light, more common in space, into wavelengths that silicon cells can more efficiently convert into electricity.

Professor Rute Ferreira highlights the impact of his findings: “Electrical measurements on the photovoltaic cell, carried out before and after the deposition of the DSLs, confirm the positive effect of the coatings on the performance of the device.” This improvement is achieved without altering existing cell designs, thus providing a scalable solution for upgrading numerous satellite systems without substantial redesign or investment.

Furthermore, the materials used for DSLs, characterized by high luminescence and photostability, promise durability and reliable performance in the harsh conditions of space. Dr. Correia adds: “This proof of concept was performed using a complex incorporated into a hybrid host due to its high efficiency and stability in light emission.”

The application of these layers to large-area photovoltaic cells marks an important milestone, as it represents the largest active area recorded so far for this type of technologies in space applications. Dr. Ferreira comments on the broader implications: “These results may encourage the interest of the research community in investing their efforts in this type of complementary photovoltaic structures for use in the space environment.”

This research not only paves the way for more efficient use of solar energy in space, but also reduces reliance on expensive multijunction cells, which could reduce the cost of producing satellites and spacecraft. The implications for future space missions are profound, expanding the viability of long-duration missions and improving the sustainability of space exploration.

In summary, the work of Correia et al. offers a promising horizon for the future of space-based solar energy systems. By optimizing the spectral match between solar radiation and silicon cell absorption, these lanthanide-based DSLs represent a promising strategy to power missions beyond Earth, marking a fundamental advance in both aerospace and in our search for sustainable energy solutions.

Magazine reference

Sandra FH Correia, Lianshe Fu, Paulo S. André, Rute AS Ferreira, “Solar spectrum management in space using lanthanide-based downshift layers”, Optical Materials: X, twenty-one100280, 2024. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.omx.2023.100280

About the authors

Sandra FH Correia received his Ph.D. She graduated in Physics from the University of Aveiro, Portugal, in 2017. She was a researcher at the Department of Physics at the University of Aveiro and CICECO – Aveiro Materials Institute from 2017 to 2021 working on luminescent solar concentrators and falling layers. She is currently a researcher at the Instituto de Telecomunicações, working on complementary photovoltaic devices for space applications. Her scientific interests primarily focus on light-emitting materials for photonic applications, namely sensors, luminescent solar concentrators, and downshift layers.

AS Ferreira Route He obtained his PhD in Physics (2002) and the Agrétação (2021) in Physics from the Universidade de Aveiro (UA), Portugal. She is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics at the UA. She is deputy director of CICECO – Aveiro Materials Institute and member of the general council of the UA. His current scientific interests focus on optoelectronic studies of organic/inorganic hybrids, foreseeing applications in the fields of optoelectronics and green photonics (solid state illumination and integrated optics), luminescent magnetic materials (single ion/molecule magnets) and photovoltaic (luminescent). solar concentrators and descending layers). In the last decade, she expanded her interests to luminescence thermometry focused on primary thermometers and the application of luminescent materials for the Internet of Things (IoT) with smart optical labels for traceability and detection.

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