Optical concentration can improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of photovoltaic power but has traditionally been too bulky, massive, and unreliable for use in space. Here, we explore a new ultra-compact and low-mass microcell concentrating photovoltaic (µCPV) paradigm for space based on the monolithic integration of transfer-printed microscale solar cells and molded microconcentrator optics. We derive basic bounds on the compactness as a function of geometric concentration ratio and angular acceptance, and show that a simple reflective parabolic concentrator provides the best combination of specific power, angular acceptance, and overall fabrication simplicity. This architecture is simulated in detail and validated experimentally with a µCPV prototype that is less than 1.7 mm thick and operates with six, 650 µm square triple-junction microcells at a geometric concentration ratio of 18.4×. In outdoor testing, the system achieves a terrestrial power conversion efficiency of 25.8 ± 0.2% over a ±9.5° angular range, resulting in a specific power of approximately 111 W/kg. These results lay the groundwork for future space µCPV systems and establish a realistic path to exceed 350 W/kg specific power at >33% power conversion efficiency by scaling down to even smaller microcells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics