The demand for communications, environmental monitoring and research is leading to a large growth rate for satellites. The high cost of production and launch efforts drives continued development of technologies to improve performance and lifetime of these assets. Solar cells provide vital power required for satellites to operate in space; however, solar cells are fragile in the demanding space environment and require a protective covering. This protective layer must minimize losses while maintaining adequate protection of the cells.
The AFRL developed a pseudomorphic glass (PMG) protective covering for solar cells that is applied as a sheet over the solar cell array. PMG is composed of ceria doped borosilicate or fused silica beads incorporated in a variety of polymer matrices. The glass beads provide radiation shielding and the matrix provides the mechanical integrity. PMG is in use with several recent satellites that are currently in orbit and will continue to be used in upcoming launches. PMG is flexible which allows a larger variety of uses including as a covering for flexible solar cells.
PMG research and development is continuing with a variety of goals. Conductivity across the covering and the ability to adjust the optical forward scattering of a solar cell will provide increased capabilities.
- Flexible: Allows for use where the cell surface flexes or the shape is changed in use
- Easy to manufacture: PMG is manufactured in a continuous sheet that is applied across the cell matrix dramatically reducing cell cost and maintenance
- Cost effective and easy to use
- US Patent 8,974,899
- Potential for collaboration with AFRL inventor