Scientists have achieved a significant milestone in space technology as ultra-thin molybdenum diselenide (MoSe2) solar cells surpass 12% efficiency. These groundbreaking solar cells, developed using molybdenum diselenide, offer improved data transmission speeds and cost competitiveness compared to traditional silicon solar cells.
The space environment poses unique challenges for solar panels, necessitating the development of specialized solar cells. While current manufacturing capabilities limit solar panel production in space, researchers have been exploring lightweight alternatives to the heavy silicon or gallium arsenide solar cells commonly used. Among these alternatives is the use of thin films of molybdenum diselenide, a 2D transition metal dichalcogenicde (2D-TMDC) semiconductor material.
The latest achievement showcases a significant efficiency boost for 2D-TMDC solar cells, increasing their conversion efficiency from 5% to an impressive 12%. Deep Jariwala, lead author of the study, emphasizes the growing recognition of 2D-TMDC as a promising solar cell material. Although primarily suited for high-flexibility space applications rather than terrestrial solar energy, 2D-TMDC solar cells possess a remarkable advantage—they are 100 times lighter than conventional silicon or gallium arsenide solar cells, making them highly attractive for space missions.
(Source: Cell Press)
The team points out while 2D-TMDC solar cells may exhibit lower efficiency compared to silicon solar cells, they generate more electrical power per unit weight. This achievement is attributed to the unique light-absorbing properties of the 2D-TMDC layer, which only requires a thickness of 3–5 nanometers. The absorption of sunlight leads to the generation of excitons, electron-hole pairs that contribute to the electricity production when integrated into separate electrodes.
Further advancements in solar cell design have resulted in even higher efficiencies. By employing a superlattice structure that alternates non-semiconductor layers with 2D-TMDC layers, researchers have double the efficiency compared to previously tested designs. Jariwala highlights the importance of this innovative approach, as it allows for multiple reflections of light within the ultra-thin solar cell structure.
The successful demonstration of 12% efficiency in such thin solar cells is noteworthy, especially considering that current solar cell efficiencies commonly fall below 5%. The research team aims to continue pushing the boundaries, aspiring to achieve 10% or higher efficiency within the next 4–5 years. The next step involves scaling up production to the wafer level, moving beyond assembling individual materials layer by layer and exploring direct growth methods on substrates. This breakthrough paves the way for more efficient and lightweight solar cells in future space exploration and beyond.
(Image Source: pixabay)