US space agency NASA has revealed the results of an experiment it conducted to assess the performance and durability of perovskite solar cells on the International Space Station. The surprising discovery was that perovskite solar cells tested in space exhibit less degradation than reference devices tested on Earth. The specific factors in the space environment that contributed to the superior performance of the perovskite absorber film currently remain unknown.
NASA tested a perovskite absorber over a 10-month period in order to assess its resistance to vacuum, extreme temperatures, radiation, and light stressors simultaneously.
“There is no ground analog, no machine that will do all of those crazy things to it at the same time quite like the International Space Station,” said researcher Lyndsey McMillon-Brown.
The scientists attached the film to the outer side of the space station and exposed it to space conditions from March 2020 to January 2021. It then returned to NASA’s laboratories on Earth and its status was compared to that of a reference device on the ground. The research group said the space-traveling perovskite cell’s sunlight-absorbing qualities were surprisingly restored when hit by solar light on Earth, while the reference showed stronger degradation when exposed to the same conditions.
“The perovskite film was still dark black after spending 10 months on the International Space Station, proving her team’s innovative solar cell material is suitable for possible use on future space missions,” said McMillon-Brown. “We don’t know exactly what about the space environment gave our film this superpower.”
Looking forward, the NASA team said that it will try to find out which specific parts of the space environment transformed the perovskite.
“Not only do they survive, but in some ways, they thrived. I love thinking of the applications of our research and that we’re going to be able to meet the power needs of missions that are not feasible with current solar technologies,” said McMillon-Brown.