Using solar radiation as propulsion for interplanetary travel has been the subject of science fiction for 100 years. Project IKAROS made this a reality, flying radiation probes to Venus and beyond using a solar sail. For propulsion, they used a gigantic, extremely lightweight sail that used radiation pressure from the sun to drive the spacecraft to Venus. They needed solar panels to power the instrumentation over the long voyage. The solar panels had to be extremely lightweight, durable, and flexible enough to withstand the storage and deployment of the solar sail.
PowerFilm worked with the creators of this solar yacht to design panels for mounting on their sail. We used a special 25µ thick substrate and a cell configuration, which gave appropriate voltage for their power bus minimizing wiring harness weight. These combined with other design features to create a panel putting out over 1200W per kilogram. The flight was a success with instruments working through the trip to Venus and for an extended set of experiments beyond.
PowerFilm's R&D team can design to even the most stringent requirements, and our amorphous silicon material provides some of the highest power-to-weight ratio available from any photovoltaic technology.
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