NASA has found that perovskite solar cells tested in space degrade less than reference devices tested on Earth. The agency admitted that it is uncertain about the specific factors in the space environment that contributed to the superior performance of the perovskite absorber film.
The agency said it will test the perovskite absorber for 10 months to evaluate its resistance to negative pressure, extreme temperatures, radiation and light agents simultaneously.
“There’s no Earth analogue and no machine that’s doing all these crazy things to it at the same time quite like the International Space Station,” said researcher Lyndsey McMillon-Brown.
The researchers attached the film to the outside of the space station and exposed it to space conditions from March 2020 to January 2021. Then it returned to NASA’s laboratories on Earth and its condition was compared with that of a reference device on the ground. The research team said the space-traveling perovskite cell surprisingly recovered its sunlight-absorbing properties when exposed to sunlight on Earth, while the reference showed stronger degradation when exposed to the same conditions.
“The perovskite film was still pitch black after spending 10 months on the International Space Station, indicating that his team’s innovative solar cell material is suitable for use in future space missions,” McMillon-Brown said. “We don’t know exactly which Space environment gave our movie this superpower.”
Going forward, the NASA team said it will try to determine which specific parts of the space environment changed the perovskite.
“They not only survived, they somehow succeeded. I love thinking about the applications of our research and being able to fill energy needs for tasks that are not possible with current solar technologies,” said McMillon-Brown.
The results confirmed previous research showing that the lack of moisture and oxygen outside Earth’s atmosphere is actually beneficial for perovskite cells, and that the cells could be better suited to space without major changes. The team said that there is huge potential for improving stability and lifetime, and that demonstrating the cell’s long-term operation in space is the next phase of research.