High Efficiency Solar Cells for Space and Terrestrial Applications

Paul R. Sharps
SolAero Technology Corp, New Mexico, United States

Keywords: High efficiency solar cells

Multi-junction solar cells based on III-V compound semiconductor materials such as GaAs and GaInP2 have the highest efficiency of any solar cell for either space or terrestrial applications. The cells were originally designed for terrestrial applications, but achieved their initial commercial success in space satellites. More recently they have been considered for terrestrial applications (e.g., UAVs and soldier carried portable power modules) where high specific power or high areal power is needed. At the cell level they are more expensive than more commonly used silicon solar cells, but at the satellite system level they have been shown to have a lower $/W cost than silicon. Currently, all DOD and civilian satellites are being powered by the III-V multi-junction cells. They also provide an advantage for area or mass constrained applications, such as the portable power or UAV applications mentioned previously. We report on the design, performance, and applications of currently available high efficiency multi-junction cells. We also discuss designs being considered to further improve performance and reduce costs.