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Ascent Solar develops CIGS solar module for space with 17.55% efficiency

06 Nov 2023

Latest Titan design following recent “record” conversion ramp announcements.

Ascent Solar Technologies, a developer of lightweight, flexible, and durable CIGS thin-film photovoltaics, is to release a new solar module.

“Titan”, which is optimized for use in a space environment, offers what Ascent calls “a record power output of 17.55% efficiency”. The product is expected to ship as early as Q1 2024.

The module will be the first standardized product specially designed for space with a specific power of 2100 W/kg. It measures approximately 300mm x 300mm (1 sq ft), weighs 10 g, and offers a target output of 17W. As with all Ascent solar modules, Titan can be used alone or configured into an array, enabling an easy Plug & FlyTM approach for users.

Titan modules will be the building block for Ascent’s line of Space Hardware Developer Kits, the company’s integrated array product offerings that are available in body-mounted, foldable deployable, and rollable deployable configurations.

Ascent stated that the modules “present a solution that is significantly larger than the typical rigid silicon solar PV cells which are the size of business cards. This significant part count reduction allows integrated arrays to require less clean room labor and other resources during spacecraft assembly, integration, and test.”

Paul Warley, CEO of Ascent Solar, commented, “Titan modules are optimized for efficiency across production, power generation, and spacecraft integration. Our efficiency of production allows our products to be price competitive with legacy solutions. The efficiency of power generation in the space domain as well as ease of spacecraft integration demonstrate stark contrasts among competition, especially when compared to alternative silicon solutions. We are currently quoting Titan module deliveries as early as Q1 of 2024.”

Titan modules are also engineered for efficient program schedules with production of over 5MW of product a year produced by Ascent’s facility in Thornton, Colorado. The modules will also scale efficiently beyond the company’s current capacity, with the ability to achieve similar production volumes via dedicated fabless production lines.

Ascent achieves 17.55% efficiency with its CIGS technology

Just a few days before the Titan module announcement, at the end of October, Ascent announced the latest test results of its proprietary CIGS technology showed an efficiency increase from 15.5% to 17.55%, which it described as “a milestone achievement”.

In August 2023, Ascent began working to optimize both the manufacturing processes and chemistry of its CIGS technology. This resulted in a jump in efficiency from 10.8% to 15.2% on September 5; an additional increase to 15.5% on September 12; and then the latest boost to 17.55%, just six weeks later.

The latest efficiency increase can be attributed to the addition of rubidium fluoride to the [CIGS] chemistry, combined with improvements to Ascent’s manufacturing process. The improvements will result in an increase in specific power in the space environment from 1900 W/kg to 2100 W/kg at AM0.

Ascent plans to further improve its CIGS technology efficiency through incorporation of Zn(O,S), a thin film that is considered a most promising candidate for a cadmium-free buffer layer, as well as broader chemistry optimization. Utilizing Zn(O,S) increases efficiency and specific power as it expands interactions with light in the blue spectrum, and helps to counter degradation through improvements after light soak.

Warley said, “We have now reached the minimum efficiency (17%) that many satellite companies require, a milestone achievement for our team and a critical step toward commercialization for our space product development program,” said Paul Warley, CEO of Ascent Solar Technologies. “We are well positioned for adoption as one of the most flexible, light and suitable solar solution to reduce waste in space.”

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