Solar farms in space are possible

A CubeSat made at the Surrey Space Centre.
Credit: University of Surrey

It’s viable to produce low-cost, lightweight solar panels that can generate energy in space, according to new research from the Universities of Surrey and Swansea.

The first study of its kind followed a satellite over six years, observing how the panels generated power and weathered solar radiation over 30,000 orbits.

The findings could pave the way for commercially viable solar farms in space.

Professor Craig Underwood, Emeritus Professor of Spacecraft Engineering at the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, said:

“We are very pleased that a mission designed to last one year is still working after six. These detailed data show the panels have resisted radiation and their thin-film structure has not deteriorated in the harsh thermal and vacuum conditions of space.

“This ultra-low mass solar cell technology could lead to large, low-cost solar power stations deployed in space, bringing clean energy back to Earth – and now we have the first evidence that the technology works reliably in orbit.”

Researchers from the University of Swansea’s Centre for Solar Energy Research developed new solar cells from cadmium telluride. The panels cover a larger area, are more lightweight, and provide far greater power than current technology – as well as being relatively cheap to manufacture.

Scientists from the University of Surrey designed instruments that measured their performance in orbit. The satellite itself was designed and built at the Surrey Space Centre in partnership with a team of trainee engineers from the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL).

Although the cells’ power output became less efficient over time, researchers believe their findings prove that solar power satellites work and could be commercially viable.

Dr Dan Lamb from the University of Swansea said

“The successful flight test of this novel thin film solar cell payload has leveraged funding opportunities to further develop this technology.”

“Large area solar arrays for space applications are a rapidly expanding market and demonstrations such as this help to build on the UK’s world class reputations for space technology.”

The study has been published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

Journal: Acta Astronautica
DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.08.034
Subject of Research: Not applicable
Article Title: IAC-22-C3.3.8 Six years of spaceflight results from the AlSat-1N Thin-Film Solar Cell (TFSC) experiment
COI Statement: The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Media Contact

Ben Weisz
University of Surrey
b.weisz@surrey.ac.uk

Media Contact

Ben Weisz
University of Surrey

All latest news from the category: Power and Electrical Engineering

This topic covers issues related to energy generation, conversion, transportation and consumption and how the industry is addressing the challenge of energy efficiency in general.

innovations-report provides in-depth and informative reports and articles on subjects ranging from wind energy, fuel cell technology, solar energy, geothermal energy, petroleum, gas, nuclear engineering, alternative energy and energy efficiency to fusion, hydrogen and superconductor technologies.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Inverters with constant full load capability

…enable an increase in the performance of electric drives. Overheating components significantly limit the performance of drivetrains in electric vehicles. Inverters in particular are subject to a high thermal load,…

Combination of heavy ion therapy and mRNA vaccine

Joining forces for cancer research: TRON and GSI/FAIR study combination of heavy ion therapy and mRNA vaccine. It could be a new, promising combination of two therapeutic approaches and a…

European XFEL elicits secrets from an important nanogel

An international team at the world’s largest X-ray laser European XFEL at Schenefeld near Hamburg has scrutinised the properties of an important nanogel that is often used in medicine to…

Partners & Sponsors