Scientists at the American space agency propose an original method for creating solar cells - on the surface of the moon. The lunar dust will be used as a raw material, with a unique technology
By: Yoram Ored, Galileo
Last year, the President of the United States George Bush presented his space vision, which includes the establishment of permanent colonies on the surface of the moon. In order to maintain such colonies there is a vital need for an independent supply of energy, which will be produced on the surface of the moon itself - because the idea of bringing fuel materials from Earth is too expensive and impractical.
Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Houston in Texas, United States, managed to come close to the practical realization of an idea in this direction, which was put forward by them in 2000. Alex Freundlich (Freundlich), the head of the team, and his colleagues for the idea, proposed to create solar cells on the surface of the moon, which would be produced using lunar dust .
The team concluded that the lunar dust contains all the necessary ingredients for the creation of solar cells. According to the researchers' proposal, robots in the form of vehicles will roam the surface of the moon, collect the sand on its surface and melt it. They will distill the sand into its components and then spread a glass substrate over the surface of the lunar soil. On this substrate will be placed the solar cells that will be prepared from other components found in the moon dust. The robots will advance and leave behind them a trail of solar cells, made by the lunar sand. The robots will generate the energy for their operation from the sun, using solar cells that they will be equipped with.
The team of researchers led by Freundlich was able to show that the idea of creating solar cells in this way is practical. The researchers used a vacuum chamber, in which they tried to get as close as possible to a real lunar vacuum (the vacuum on the moon is a vacuum very close to a perfect vacuum).
Inside the vacuum chamber, the researchers melted a powder identical in composition to the composition of the lunar sand and then allowed it to solidify again. After that they showed that a solar cell cast on the surface of the glass does convert light energy into electrical energy. The team showed that the glass on which the solar cell was cast is suitable to serve as a substrate for the solar cell.
The researchers were careful to use only techniques that would be available on the moon. This meant that the efficiency of the solar cells created was very low - only 1%. This is compared to an efficiency of up to 20% in conventionally manufactured solar cells.
At the same time, the low efficiency of the solar cells should not keep too much sleep from the eyes of those who will in the future receive the solar cells from the makers of these robots, for their use on the moon. There is plenty of free space on the surface of the moon, which will make it possible to obtain sufficient electrical energy even for such a low energy production efficiency.