NASA SBIR 2020-II Solicitation

Proposal Summary

Proposal Information

Proposal Number:
20-2- S3.01-5487
Phase 1 Contract #:
Subtopic Title:
Power Generation and Conversion
Proposal Title:
Flexible Solar Modules with Low-Cost Prismatic Encapsulation

Small Business Concern

MicroLink Devices, Inc.
6457 Howard Street, Niles, IL 60714
(847) 588-3001                                                                                                                                                                                

Principal Investigator:

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

Business Official:

Noren Pan
6457 Howard Street, IL 60714 - 3301
(847) 588-3001                                                                                                                                                                                

Summary Details:

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :                                                                                                                                                          
Begin: 4
End: 6
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words):

This Phase II 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. During the Phase I program MicroLink demonstrated 4% higher output power as well as enhanced high-angle capture using low-cost prismatic silicone and robust UV rejection (UVR) coatings. This was used to fabricate the first truly flexible, space-grade module with multi-junction solar cells. Deployable, retractable arrays such as the Lunar VSAT would be an excellent application for the new module technology.

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words):
  • Spacecraft, Lunar and Planetary Missions – Lightweight, flexible roll-up power modules for Lunar VSAT. Large-scale SEP (solar electric propulsion) spacecraft with high specific power solar arrays for a variety of NASA science missions.
  • Satellites – The IMM solar modules are low cost and have low mass with high output power and 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 reduced visibility. Textured sheets can be applied to all solar cell technologies.
Duration:     24

Form Generated on 05/13/2021 14:45:47