Miniature solar cell startup eyes next-era aerospace applications

October 29, 2019 //By Rich Pell
Miniature solar cell startup eyes next-era aerospace applications
Solar cell technology startup mPower Technology (Albuquerque, NM) has announced that it has raised $2.5 million in Series A funding to commercialize its miniature solar cell technology in the aerospace market.

The company, which spun off from Sandia National Laboratories in 2017, says the capital builds upon extensive R&D investment by Sandia and will be used to commercialize its DragonSCALEs solar cell technology - individually interconnected cells of highly efficient silicon that can be meshed into any shape or form. DragonSCALEs are lightweight, flexible, resilient, and extremely reliable, and designed to overcome the low-voltage limitations of today's rigid solar cells.

DragonSCALEs, also called "solar glitter," are offered as enabling a wide new range of solar power design possibilities for multiple applications and markets. In particular, says the company, by offering reduced weight and stowage volume, increased radiation recovery, and dramatically lower cost as compared to existing Gallium Arsenide-based (III-V) solutions, they are an ideal solution for the aerospace market.

"We've made a great deal of progress in 2019 with our partners in the aerospace market," says Kevin Hell, president and CEO, mPower Technology. "This investment is a direct reflection of the promise of this technology and the confidence our investors have in our ability to execute our business plan in the near future. With its disruptive cost and performance advantages, our groundbreaking technology is incredibly well positioned to be the solar power solution of choice for the next era of aerospace applications, particularly the large emerging market for satellite constellations."

The company's glitter-sized photovoltaic (PV) cells are produced using microfabrication and microdesign techniques, added to a solution comparable to printing ink, and printed onto an affordable substrate material that focuses light onto the cells with embedded contacts and microlenses. The microprocesses used to create the cells are also common to liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), semiconductors, and other microsystems industries.

As well as being applicable to any shape or size of object, says the company, the solar cells are cheaper to create and easier to install than conventional solar panels. They are extremely thin and can be as tiny as 14 microns thick

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