NASA SBIR 2020-I Solicitation

Proposal Summary

 20-1- S3.01-5487
 Power Generation and Conversion
 Textured Solar Array
SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
MicroLink Devices, Inc.
6457 Howard Street
Niles, IL 60714
(847) 588-3001

Principal Investigator (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)

Christopher Youtsey
6457 Howard Street Niles, IL 60714 - 3301
(847) 549-8590

Business Official (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)

Noren Pan
6457 Howard Street Niles, IL 60714 - 3301
(847) 588-3001
Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 3
End: 5
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)

This Phase I program will demonstrate an innovative, module-level encapsulation technology that will lower the cost by at least 50% and enhance the performance of space-grade solar arrays. Conventional solar cells for space use specialized coverglass that provides essential environmental protection from high-energy particle and ultraviolet solar radiation but is expensive to apply and has high fragility. Next-generation coverglass replacement materials have been explored by several groups over the past decade. Pseudomorphic glass (PMG) uses glass microbeads embeded in a silicone matrix that can be formed into sheets or sprayed on interconnected modules. Pure silicone sheets using space-grade DC 93-500 have also been investigated for module-level protection. Both approaches have the additional benefit of high flexibility that is synergistic with thin-film, inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cells manufactured by MicroLink Devices, enabling a pathway to truly flexible solar modules.

The central innovation in this proposal is to introduce a novel, prismatic texturing method that will improve the performance and manufacturability of silicone-based encapsulations including PMG. Texturing of glass encapsulants has previously been explored for enhancing high-angle light capture for terrestrial solar arrays, but prismatic structuring of space coverglass has not been widely investigated. Polymer materials are much more readily formed into prismatic shapes, which presents a new opportunity to introduce this important technique. In this Phase I program MicroLink will demonstrate that prismatic structures not only increase the high-angle collection efficiency of space solar cells by up to 30%, but also reduce the operating temperature by as much as 3 degrees. Equally important, the surface texturing is expected to substantially simplify the design and robustness of essential UV protective coating layers deposited over the encapsulation.

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
  • Spacecraft and Planetary Missions – The proposed textured modules may provide an enabling technology for large-scale SEP (solar electric propulsion) spacecraft and enable high specific power solar arrays for a variety of NASA science missions.
  • Satellites – The IMM solar modules are low mass, flexible, and power dense and as such they will be beneficial for large-scale deployment of constellation satellites and cubesats.
Potential Non-NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – High-altitude long-endurance (HALE) solar UAVs such as the Airbus Zephyr, which have variable sun incident angles depending on time of day/year and latitude.
  • Commercial Satellites – Flexible “roll-out” arrays, LEO constellation satellites that require low cost and use body-mounted solar panels. Textured sheets can be applied to all solar cell technologies.
Duration: 6

Form Generated on 06/29/2020 21:02:23