European Space Agency

Next Generation Upright Metamorphic 4-Junction Space Solar Cells

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Objectives

New powerful and lightweight solar generators are mandatory for solar electric propulsion. They require a solar cell with highest end-of-life power and low weight. AZUR closely discussed the approach within the NEOSAT programme to satisfy these needs by introduction of the next generation solar cell the 4G32C and the 4G32C-Advanced into the market with the target customers.

The following objectives were identified and addressed:

  • Realization of a novel upright metamorphic (UMM) 4-junction solar cell 4G32C featuring AZUR SPACE’s proprietary radiation- hardening design and reaching an EOL efficiency of 27.5% (1E15 cm-2 1 MeV electrons). This cell is intended to be an intermediate step towards a 4G32C-Advanced cell with an EOL efficiency of 28.5%.
  • Development and implementation of a cell thinning process to enable a cell weight in the range of 50 mg/cm².
  • Development of a new Si bypass diode SDA.
  • Qualification of the developed 4G32C bare solar cell and SDA bypass diode according to ECSS standards to accelerate their implementation into photovoltaic assemblies by solar generator manufacturers.

4G32C (4×8 cm2)

Challenges

The 4G32C is the first metamorphic and first 4J cell for GEO on the market.
Upright metamorphic growth and quaternary semiconductor alloys
challenge crystal growth. Furthermore, handling and processing of fragile and curved cells is required. The implementation of AZUR’s proprietary radiation-hardening design was also a major task for the project. Most demanding was to transfer all the processes into a production environment with high throughput and high yield.
 

Benefits

The 4G32C provides a similar interface to our customers as the current product 3G30C-Advanced. Standard lay-down technologies may be applied. However, the 4G32C exceeds the power output of all previous products at beginning-of-life but especially also at end-of-life while the production costs remain at a low level. Thinning of the cell reduces the mass by about 40%. No additional carrier substrate is required.

Features

The 4G32 comprises component cells made from AlInGaP, AlInGaAs, InGaAs and Ge. A metamorphic buffer is implemented in order to reach the optimum bandgap combination for highest conversion efficiencies. The proprietary distributed Bragg reflector adopted from AZUR´s current radiation-hard cell products additionally improves radiation hardness of the cell. The cell is available with different layouts, sizes and thicknesses.
The Si bypass diode SDA complements the cell for application on a solar panel.
 

System Architecture

The 4G32C is a bare solar cell with a typical size of 4×8 cm². The cell features welding pads for the attachment of electrical interconnects. Typically, the 4G32C and the SDA are protected by a cover glass and glued to the PVA substrate. About 40 cells connected in series allow a string voltage of 100 V at EOL. This is facilitated by a high cell voltage and very low voltage degradation.

Plan

The development of the 4G32C and the Si bypass diode SDA has been completed by the end of 2016. Then qualification lots for bare cell and bare diode qualification have been produced.

Current status

The 4G32C cell is successfully qualified for GEO mission requirements according to ECSS standards.
The development of the bypass diode SDA is completed and the diode is qualified for GEO and LEO mission requirements according to ECSS standards.

Status date

Monday, February 10, 2020 - 11:09