Niles, IL, United States

MicroLink Devices, Inc.

www.mldevices.com
Niles, IL, United States

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Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

To continue the trend towards ever more efficient photovoltaic devices, next-generation multi-junction cells will be based on increasingly complex structures. These structures will require the ability to join two or more independently grown epitaxial structures together via wafer bonding which is a complicated process to include in a high-volume manufacturing environment using conventional wafer fusion techniques. Additionally, metamorphic material is very difficult to bond due to the inherent roughness of the surface. We propose the development of a bonding process based on an epoxy interface with an embedded metallic grid to provide electrical conductivity across the bonded interface. This process is expected to be low-cost, compatible with metamorphic material and high-volume manufacturing, and readily scalable to 6-inch or larger substrates. It will be an enabling technology for next-generation, five- and six-junction solar cells with 1-sun AM0 efficiency exceeding 37% in high volume production. An example device structure that can benefit from the proposed wafer bonding technique is a six-junction solar cell. This six-junction device is composed of two triple-junction stacks, one of which is grown on a GaAs substrate while the other is grown on an InP substrate. The two triple-junction stacks must be bonded together to form the final six-junction device. The epoxy-bonding process proposed here will allow this bonding to be accomplished reliably on large-area substrates. This is essential for turning this structure into a practical, manufacturable, commercial product. When coupled with MicroLink Device's proprietary epitaxial lift-off (ELO) technology which allows for reuse of both the GaAs and InP substrates, devices based on this six-junction architecture could potentially be manufactured for less than $170/W in sufficient volume to serve near-term applications. This structure is expected to yield 40% efficiency under AM0 illumination.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 743.09K | Year: 2015

In the proposed Phase II project, MicroLink and its collaborator, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), will incorporate quantum dots (QDs) in the GaAs and InGaAs subcells of an InGaP/GaAs/InGaAs triple-junction solar cell to increase the radiation tolerance and thereby improve the end-of-life performance of the solar cell by >5%. The quantum dot solar cell will be grown in an inverted metamorphic (IMM) format on GaAs and will be compatible with MicroLink's epitaxial lift-off (ELO) process. The resulting solar cells will be lightweight, flexible, and radiation tolerant. Mechanically, they will resemble a sheet of thin metal foil. Innovative light management techniques such as reflective metal back contact and silver nanoparticle-enhanced reflectivity will be employed to increase absorption in the solar cell


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 755.00K | Year: 2016

MicroLink Devices in collaboration with University of Notre Dame will develop composite lightweight, high-efficiency, epitaxial lift-off (ELO) inverted metamorphic (IMM) triple junction solar cells ideally suited for retrofitting current generation UAVs and integration with next generation platforms in order to substantially increase mission duration beyond current battery only technologies. MicroLink will target composite ELO solar cells (CSC) with ultra high specific power (>3.0 kW/kg) and very high areal power density (>370 W/m2). ELO is a unique disruptive technology that affords an attractive cost reduction model through substrate reclaim whereby the substrate after solar cell functional layers have been removed can be repolished and used for another solar cells growth. This model allows the cost of the substrate to be spread over several solar cell growth runs.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Army | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2015

The objective for Phase II is to transition the nanopatterning results obtained in Phase I to epitaxial lift-off (ELO)-based GaAs cells. By developing nanopatterning on ELO solar cells and antireflection coatings and by laminating the cells using nanopatterned PET/Teflon films, we can develop highly flexible and lightweight solar cells that are less sensitive to the angle of incidence of incoming sunlight and therefore provide improved energy generation over the entire day. Subsequently we will work on transitioning the technique onto larger area (20 square centimeter) ELO cells. Simultaneously we will work on developing low-cost nanopatterning methods using nanosphere lithography, such as nanoimprint technology in a roll-to-roll process flow.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

The Air Force, will benefit from the radiation-hard, lightweight, flexible, high-efficiency solar cells, which will enable greater capability on future spacecraft. Spacecraft will have a longer lifetime in high radiation orbits; alternatively, less radiation shielding, and hence less weight, will be required to provide the same endurance available at present. In the longer term, lightweight, flexible large-area cells will allow the development of very large solar arrays, which will enable the deployment of satellites with a far higher power budget and a far greater set of capabilities than are currently available. This benefit applies to the other services - Army and Navy - as well, as all services employ spacecraft to achieve their mission. Another existing military requirement addressed by the technology proposed in the SBIR proposal is the requirement for portable power for remote systems, forward operating bases (FOBs), and dismounted soldiers and Marines. The military potential of the proposed technology is the realization of an extremely high-efficiency solar cell in a robust, flexible, lightweight format that can address this power requirement for these disparate operating conditions, and therefore several DoD agencies are likely to benefit from the results of this project. The Army and Marines will benefit from the proposed lightweight, flexible, high efficiency solar cells, which will enable portable PV blankets that can provide tactical power sources for FOBs and individual Warfighter and decrease or eliminate the requirement for fossil fuels and batteries. High efficiency long endurance aircraft (HALE) will also directly benefit from the results of this work. As the cost are brought down, lightweight portable chargers will also be possible.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2016

Double epitaxial lift-off (D-ELO) in conjunction with semiconductor bonding will be leveraged to produce 38% efficient six-junction solar cells. These solar cells will enable optimal performance for future NASA missions that require solar cells with high specific power, high power conversion efficiency, and lower cost than the incumbent solar cell technology. High efficiency is enabled by the use of six AM0 spectrum-matched subcell junctions. A reduction in mass compared to incumbent technology is enabled by removal of the thick semiconductor substrates while a cost savings compared to incumbent technology is enabled by the recovery and subsequent reuse of the expensive semiconductor substrates via the D-ELO process.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2016

In this Phase II program we propose to develop a manufacturable production process to introduce backside contacts to MicroLink Devices? large-area, multi-junction epitaxial lift-off (ELO) solar cells. We will also develop new assembly processes to fabricate flexible Kapton sheets with backside contact ELO solar cells. This enables an important path for cost reduction using fully automated laydown and interconnect of solar panels. The new backside contact ELO solar cell technology has potential benefits for future NASA solar electric propulsion (SEP) programs using very large solar cell arrays. Backside contacts are used in the highest efficiency silicon solar cells manufactured by SunPower (>24% efficiency in production) but have never been successfully applied commercially to multi-junction solar cells. Benefits for large-area space solar cell include: higher device efficiency by reducing topside grid shadow and resistive losses, new approaches for panel assembly by placing contacts on backside of solar cell, and reduced arcing in high-voltage arrays by eliminating topside interconnects. The proposed technology builds on MicroLink Devices? low-cost, lightweight ELO solar cell technology and previous experience with backside contact solar cells for CPV applications.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2016

The proposed innovation will dramatically improve the performance of tritium-powered betavoltaic batteries through the development of an ultra thin p on n junction composed of indium gallium phosphide coupled to a thin film metal tritide. The thin cell will be built using MicroLink's signature epitaxial lift off technology and standard metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) along with City Labs' tritium betavoltaic expertise. The proposed betavoltaic p/n junction can be stacked in a box or rolled into a cylinder and will provide a cost saving of up to 90%, while increasing energy density to up to twenty times that of lithium batteries. Such an advanced semiconductor device will produce much higher power outputs than are possible with existing state-of-the-art devices as illustrated in the Figure. It will provide the battery a life span in excess of 20 years with the broad-range temperature-insensitivity benefits normally associated with betavoltaics. This increased power/energy density for tritium betavoltaics will open up pathways for significant advances in power solutions for diminutive sized, low-power microelectronic devices that may be used in Cubesat and in-space power systems. Example applications include microwatt-to-milliwatt autonomous 20+ year sensors/microelectronics for use in structural monitoring, mesh networks, tagging and tracking wireless sensors, medical device implants, and deep space power where solar is not easily available. Tritium betavoltaics are capable of addressing this power niche for devices requiring reliable, uninterrupted power through extremes of temperature, longevity and diminutive form factors where traditional batteries cannot operate.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Office of the Secretary of Defense | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2015

Photovoltaics (solar cells) are an attractive technology to provide renewable energy sources for forward operating bases, man-portable power sources, and tactical applications. Solar arrays can provide base power greatly reducing the need for logistical fuels, continuous battery recharging for warfighters on the move, and integrated power sources for remote, autonomous systems, e.g. UAVs. To be effective, solar arrays must be lightweight, flexible, and provide high power density. Flexible solar arrays based on thin film photovoltaics have been fielded for some military applications, but their usefulness has been limited by their low efficiency. Si panels have attained efficiencies as high as 22% but but are made of glass and Al. Flexible amorphous Si or polycrystalline CIGS panels are less than 15% efficient. Higher efficiency, flexible solar cells have been demonstrated for space applications, but their cost has hindered terrestrial applications. New materials and manufacturing methodologies are needed to produce a solar cell that is lightweight, flexible, high efficiency, and affordable. The goal of this topic is to develop cost-effective, photovoltaic technologies that display high efficiencies in a flexible format.


Some embodiments include a kit for supplying solar power in a battery-powered or fuel cell powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by incorporating flexible solar cells into a component of a UAV, affixing flexible solar cells to a surface of a UAV, or affixing flexible solar cells to a surface of a component of a UAV. The kit also includes a power conditioning system configured to operate the solar cells within a desired power range and configured to provide power having a voltage compatible with an electrical system of the UAV. Another embodiments include a solar sheet configured for installation on a surface of a UAV or on a surface of a component of a UAV. The solar sheet includes a plurality of solar cells and a polymer layer to which the plurality of solar cells are attached.

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