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Thin-Film Solar Cells Could Power Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

A Sunnyvale, CA-based company claims to have come up with lightweight, solar-based solution to keeping unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air for longer periods of time. Alta Devices provided an overview of the technology at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco last week.

According to the company, the material ca be used on clothing, on vehicles, or on hand-held objects to generate solar power. On a UAV with a 9-ft. wingspan, the material could generate roughly 125W of power, but add only 4.5 ounces to the vehicle’s weight. That could benefit agricultural and safety applications (like land surveying or wildfire monitoring), since a UAV could be used without needing frequent recharging.

The company was founded in 2008 by two professors, Harry Atwater of Cal Tech and Eli Yablonovitch of Berkeley. The solar material is a thin photovoltaic film created from flexible, single-crystal GaAs (Gallium Arsenide) material for single junction cells. The company also offers dual junction technology using Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP) as the absorber layer.

Earlier this year, the company reached 30.8% solar cell efficiency, and announced that testing by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that its modules stay cooler in real-world conditions and lose very little efficiency as the temperature rises. You can read more about the tests here.

Source: Alta Devices

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.