Sharp develops efficient solar cells for use in outer space

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Earlier this year, we reported twice about Japan’s serious plans to go to outer space to generate solar energy and then beam it back to Mother Earth. And today, Sharp has shown the first solar cell that’s not only bendable (we’ve seen that before) but that also withstands conditions in space. In addition, the company says those cells boast a record-high solar efficiency of 36%.

The compound solar cells can not only be bent if needed but even folded. They are less than 20 microns thick and are made by stacking up single crystals of indium gallium, gallium arsenide and indium gallium arsenide. These single-crystal layers are grown on solid substrates before transferring them onto a flexible film base. As a result, the solar cells feature extreme flexibility material-wise.

There’s only a prototype available at this point (sorry for the small picture), but Sharp is working on getting a practical version ready in 2012. The solar cells can then be used for equipping satellites and other space applications.

Via Nikkei [registration required, paid subscription]

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