Groundbreaking newly developed solar panels are all set to repair themselves without getting damaged by space radiation. The development is expected to help satellites stay longer in space in the future. Scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia have developed the solar panel. It features self-healing capabilities that can drastically extend the life of satellites in orbit.
The panel is said to use perovskite, which is a calcium titanium oxide mineral that is also cited as a miracle material attributed to its unique properties. The new finding is expected to make power sources for satellites and spacecraft more resilient and reliable in the near future. Previously, perovskite solar cell (PSC), a type of lightweight solar panel, was observed to have great potential for use in space. The cells are relatively affordable to make and are said to convert solar radiation into electricity at a high level of efficiency. The researchers reiterated in their published paper that the space hardware would be exposed to proton radiation, and it would be of great interest to evaluate radiation stability for PSCs in orbit.
However, with high-energy proton particles present in space, the cells must be robust to withstand such elements. In this context, the research team believes they have found a solution. The team conducted experiments in lab conditions to simulate the effects of proton radiation over long periods. Moreover, the experiments focused on ultrathin solar cell substrates that are best suited for satellite use.
The team further shared that they had found that the hole transport material (HTM) within the PSC played a critical role in withstanding damage and healing. The HTM can help the movement of holes i.e. the absence of electrons within solar cells, which allows them to stay separated and produce electricity. Moreover, a specific dopant and some types of HTM were found to be the most effective in resisting proton radiation damage.
What can enable the solar panels to self-heal is carefully configuring the HTM, which can also restore them up to 100 percent efficiency. Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, an associate investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science at the University of Sydney, reiterated that they were hopeful that the insights generated by their work are expected to lead to the development of low-cost, lightweight solar cells for future space applications.
Furthermore, in a paper published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials titled “Effect of Hole Transport Materials and Their Dopants on the Stability and Recoverability of Perovskite Solar Cells on Very Thin Substrates after 7 MeV Proton Irradiation.” the research team detailed their insights and findings.