Sylmar, CA —Flying high above the earth are thousands of satellites providing the necessities of daily communication. With the proliferation of cell phones and the Internet, onboard power requirements have become even more demanding. "We have now created space solar cells with an efficiency up to 29%," says David Lillington, acting President of Spectrolab, a division of Hughes Electronics. "By increasing the absorption from single junction to multi-junction arrays we have been able to dramatically increase the [energy] absorption rates."
Standard solar cell technology relies on a single junction. But since the mid 1990s, Spectrolab has created solar cells with multiple junctions. "By growing 16 layers of gallium arsenide on germanium we have been able to create a triple junction cell with much higher efficiencies," says Lillington up from the current 15%. "By improving on these processes, we expect efficiencies up to 50% in about 10 years from now."