University of Toledo
The U.S. Air Force awarded a team of physicists at The University of Toledo $7.4 million to enhance the reliability and efficiency of lightweight power to improve the safety and effectiveness of Department of Defense missions.
Dr. Randall Ellingson, professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization will lead the five-year contract to develop solar technology that is lightweight, flexible, highly efficient and durable in space so it can provide power for space vehicles using sunlight.
Ellingson is applying his persistent dedication to discovery in the fast-growing field of photovoltaics to champion the U.S. armed forces by advancing power generation technologies for space vehicle applications to survive natural and man-made threats.
"Our goal is to protect our troops and enhance national security by accelerating the performance of solar cells," Ellingson said. "Our primary goal is to reduce the power system payload by developing highly efficient and lightweight technology to replace liquid fuels and minimize battery storage needs."
In order for the technology to achieve both high efficiency and the flexibility to be used on a curved surface like a wing or fuselage, Ellingson's team is making tandem solar cells - two different solar cells stacked on top of each other that use two different parts of the sun's spectrum - on very thin, flexible supporting material.
UToledo physicists have had great success drawing record levels of power from the same amount of sunlight using the tandem technique with what are called perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry.
"The University of Toledo is a worldwide leader driving innovation in photovoltaics research, education and application," Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. "This critical collaboration with the U.S. Air Force strengthens national security and fuels a cleaner energy future for generations to come."
UToledo's flexible, lightweight, low-cost technology will be tested under space-like radiation exposure.
"In outer space, the radiation environment is much more harsh, where high-energy photons and particles, arising from both our sun and our galaxy, can damage the solar cells," Ellingson said.
"We are proud our photovoltaics team at The University of Toledo has been selected once again to use its state-of-the-art expertise to advance Air Force missions in service to the nation," Dr. Frank Calzonetti, UToledo vice president for research, said. "This major award demonstrates the high regard the U.S. Air Force has in The University of Toledo's solar energy research capabilities and the confidence in our research team. Dr. Ellingson has performed exceptionally well in meeting the high demands of the Air Force in providing research that supports the nation's defense posture."
EurekAlert!, the online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/uot-upa080719.php