Why Launch Solar Panels When You Can Print Them Directly In Space? Printing Perovskite Panels

Why Launch Solar Panels When You Can Print Them Directly In Space? Printing Perovskite Panels


solar energy is the ideal way to power a
spacecraft there’s no weather there’s no pesky
atmosphere just pure photons streaming from the Sun to harvest for whatever you
need well as long as you’re within the inner solar system but solar panels are
complicated and fragile made of sensitive electronics and glass and not
to mention really heavy any spacecraft equipped with solar panels needs to
handle the gravity down here on earth for the construction and testing then
the shaking and high G’s of launch the solar panels need to unfold perfectly
once they get to space and the total amount of energy you can harvest is
limited by the size of your rocket launch fairing maybe there’s a new
strategy NASA is currently funding research into a new type of solar panel
that can be carried into space as a liquid and then sprayed onto a surface
we’ve talked in previous videos about how important space-based manufacturing
and construction is going to be ideally you’d want the raw materials from space
but until that happens it still makes a lot of sense to carry your resources
back tightly in a rocket and then assemble as big a structure as you need
once you’re in space maven spaces are Connaught one is set to demonstrate how
it should be possible to 3d print the structures that hold the spacecraft
solar panels but it’s still gonna be deploying traditional solar cells NMIT
has shown how tiny robots working together as teams could assemble
space-based structures of almost any size but the assumption has been that
the more complicated electronics solar panels and other hardware will still
need to come from the earth until we have serious space-based manufacturing
in place traditional solar panels or photovoltaics directly convert light
into electricity harnessing the photoelectric effect when atoms absorb
photons of light they can release electrons a solar panel collects these
electrons and puts him to work Albert Einstein earned his Nobel Prize in 1905
explaining how this process worked and in the 1950s engineers were making the
first two rudimentary photovoltaic modules
this technology was perfect for the space industry which needed a way of
generating electricity beyond the reach of the longest extension cords modern
solar panels are really just electronics large numbers of solar cells are
connected together into panels and they generate current depending on how much
light is falling on them advances in solar energy technology have sandwich
several layers of solar cells together typically different flavors of gallium
arsenide with each layer extracting energy from different photon wavelengths
the most modern solar panels in use by NASA today typically have three layers
and can convert 34% of sunlight into electricity but they’re working on
versions with four and even six layers that could convert even a higher
percentage there’s an entirely different technology called perovskite solar
panels which might enable spray printed panels in space per EPS kites are
crystals with a cube like lattice structure which can harvest photons
they’re less efficient than photovoltaics providing just over 10
percent electricity from sunlight and unfortunately they’re also incredibly
sensitive to moisture and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere but they have their
advantages the crystals don’t need to be wired up like electronics they can just
be produced in large sheets researchers from Rice University announced this week
that they’ve been able to overcome some of the downsides of perovskite crystals
using different materials that resulted in fewer defects they were able to make
panels with an efficiency of 12% and a voltage of 1.2 volts even better the
panel’s were able to stand up to a high humidity environment for months without
degrading while traditional crystals decayed within a few days the
researchers think they can get them up to 20% efficiency over time eventually
we should get to a point that this material can just be sprayed onto any
surface let it dry and you’ve got a solar panel of any size so what about
using them in space I’ll get to that in a second but first I like to thank Jules
Verne Steve Rehberg reader and the rest of our 830 patrons
for their generous support educational content should be freely available to
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professor cyant ani gosh and the students at University of California
Merced have developed a process for spraying liquid parofsky crystals over a
surface like the technology inside an inkjet printer a small nozzle deposits
the material as a film about 250 times thinner than a human hair onto a
substrate that provides the structure of the panel according to a press release
from UC Merced just a single leader of prof. skite solution could cover a
football field sized sheet of solar absorbers in space I mentioned the
disadvantages of profs kites they’re a salt crystal and very sensitive to
moisture here on earth the crystals need to be encased in plastic to protect them
from the environment but moisture isn’t a factor in space or on the moon so it
could be the perfect place to print them directly the UC Merced team is still
testing this technology down here on earth but they recently received a grant
from NASA to adapt this method to space missions one of the big unknowns is how
well these thin films of crystals will hold up to space itself as spacecraft
pass from light to darkness they experience extreme temperature changes
and they still don’t know how they’ll handle degradation in the unfiltered
sunlight the next step will be to perform tests at NASA’s Glenn Research
Center they have spacecraft torture chambers
called the vacuum facilities they’re capable of simulating the vacuum
temperature extremes and solar flux of space and if the technology passes these
tests the next step will be for some of the crystals to fly to the International
Space Station as part of the materials International Space Station experiment
13 and there’ll be more testing over the next couple of years if successful this
technology could be part of NASA’s Artemis project to the moon providing
power to the astronauts as they perform longer stays on the lunar surface
obviously I’m super excited by any developments that could enable more
space-based manufacturing and assembly and if there’s actually a way to inkjet
print solar panels in space it could significantly change the way spacecraft
are built and launched imagine a spacecraft carrying raw plastic and prof
skate fluid and then 3d printing the structure and solar panel film at the
same time building solar panels as big as it needs solar panels that never
experienced earth gravity or the launch so I’ll let you know want to hear of any
updates what do you think let me know your thoughts in the comments here are
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Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts not pro link in the show notes
I talked briefly about the our Connaught spacecraft that’s gonna 3d print its
solar panel structure in space if you want to learn more about that we did a
whole video on it you can watch that here

46 thoughts on “Why Launch Solar Panels When You Can Print Them Directly In Space? Printing Perovskite Panels”

  • Solar panels made on earth are extremely lightweight. Up to 1700w/kg and there is plans to extend this to 17000 W/kg
    https://www.ascentsolar.com/bare-modules.html
    https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/12/04/1219818/0/en/Ascent-s-Superlight-Thin-Film-Solar-Selected-for-Jupiter-Deployment-Demonstration-by-the-Japan-Aerospace-Exploration-Agency.html
    http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/early_commercial_demonstration_of_space_solar_power_using_ultra_lightweight_arrays.shtml

  • Well, 3d printers are actually quite huge machines relative to the size/mass of the products they can produce. So. I guess.

  • This is a really great overview on how solar works! I had no idea Einstein got his Nobel prize for describing the effect that led to solar panels.

  • Hey Fraser! I got to thinking: what, if anything, could allow organic material to "fly" without relying on manipulation of a specific medium like wings in atmosphere or fins in water? Essentially, how superman?

  • i know it's not your expertise, but a bit more detail on the photoelectric effect and what exactly makes perovskite photovoltaics function the way they do would've been appreciated. then again im studying electronics, so maybe im way too deep into the matter.

  • I owuld assume that the printing material weighs the same as the full made panels, plus you have the printer 's weight on top of that. Where you'd want a printer is on a space station that builds space craft, space probes, landers, rovers, and space telescopes.

  • I guess the next big step would be seeing if a cell can be printed onto a super thin backing. Inflate a giant baloon with a minimal amount of argon, spray or sputter coat the inside with solar cells.

    After that the trick would be producing the ultra thin plastic film in space. I wonder if a film blower could be adapted for zero g and vacuum. Blow/inflate a kilometers long tube while coating it and turning it into a solar collector?

  • I suspect the Perovskite blend will be used to compliment higher efficiency panels and possibly sprayed on the outer surface of a space station just because.

  • Didn’t the Space Shuttle do a TETHER experiment in the 90’s that generated soo much electricity that it burned the TETHER until it snapped?

  • This would be great for spraying on the solid surface of a Moonbase, in addition to any solar panels. And anything that lessens load to orbit will lessen cost. Now we need to see what's the smallest 3D printer (or set of them) that can make anything useful in space.

  • If you think of leaves as solar panels, is a deciduous tree the best arrangement of solar panels for the space they take up? It's just something that popped up in my mind.

  • Hey Fraise! The link universetoday.com/audio seems to link to the rss feed itself (where you need to know how to process that), maybe it's better to make it redirect to https://universetoday.fireside.fm/ for better user experience?

  • There needs to be a company that just focuses on the energy portion of space flight. A company that just sends up solar panels in bulk with some sort of craft that can maneuver them and possibly some sort of power storage capabilities. From there they provide an adapter to their solar panels for other companies. The other companies can now focus on their satellite etc and once their hardware is in space the other company attaches the solar panels or tops up the energy storage cells… kinda like a full serve gas station but with solar as the focus.

  • "250 times thinner" (5:00) is a weenie way to say (I copyright that phrase) "One two hundred and fiftyth" , or " by the small fraction of 1 over 250". This talking about "times smaller" is not specific, it's un-scientific, and is becoming disturbingly common. Please desist.

  • It makes so much more sense to build as much in space as possible! 3d printers will go a long way to achieving that goal.

    Besides lower costs, making as many things as possible in space would also make spacestead habitats and extraterrestrial settlements as independent as possible, which will be important to these space settlements gaining full sovereignty.

  • Any plans about adding radiators to Starship? We've seen where they plan to add solar panels but I haven't heard people talk about where radiators will go. I imagine they'll have to be pretty big.

  • I love the fact that you can see the huge potential in space based manufacturing, Fraser. These unique technologies are about to take off big time as we return to the moon. It really upsets me that dinosaurs like the throwaway SLS are still sucking in funds at the expense of much more laudable projects. I hear the latest cost estimate of an SLS launch has ballooned out to 2 billion dollars. An obscene waste of money IMO.

  • Why not just launch several bundles of solar panels into space. Make a solar panel depot of dozens of plug and play units of a few standardized sizes. Any time a satellite is launched, have it synchronize orbits with the depot and then a robot goes and attaches a few modular solar panels to the satellite. Do the same with a propellant refuelling station. You can launch your satellite empty and without solar panels. Put the heavy things already in orbit so you don't have to heft it into space with each launch.

  • I wonder if instead of layering the photovoltaics to catch different wavelengths, if you could pass the light through a prism first to separarte them.
    I've heard of using a lense to have more expensive but efficient cells catch light from a larger area for less cost and maybe this could be used in conjunction with that.

  • Hi Fraser, question. Is it reaching to say it's possible that a distant civilisation could of seeded our galaxy and given rise to us as they knew they were about to become extinct so rather than go out without a fight they sent microbial life/DNA or something to asteroids hoping it would one day seed other planets and continue life? I know it's what I'd do if I knew earth was ending, I'd spread life wherever I could in all directions

  • Jules Verne? He's doing well to be able to be a patron for your site. :~) I remember a video by someone, I watch hundreds so lose track sometimes, where they were discussing the self manufacture of the actual frame of whatever it is in space also using a metal, I think, 3d printer. Seems like these 2 would complement each other. Now all we need is for us to send a little bot up there with the "box of magic" that can actually make and put together the electronics that make up the satellite. Even if it was just like a little lego kit of components it could fit together. This would enable flat packing the entire amount of resources and parts needed to make anything. They just need to start designing satellites and other things with more modern information as their base. With the things we can do now it would seem odd if they still use the old techniques. Hell they could even just send up a mini bot with a raspberry pi to give it a whirl. :~) I think it would make some sense to use things like "bot swarms" that can work together to achieve different things.

  • Dear Fraser
    We're about a month away from Season 4 of The Expanse. Do you think it would be feasible for your channel to do a show in honour of the upcoming premiere?
    Regardless, I thought I'd float the idea and hope for the best.
    Cheers, mate.

  • NASA is making 100% the same mistake here, as with the James Webb telescope.
    Instead of getting themselves a bigger rocket – they extremely overcomplicate the payloads, involving robotic self-assembling and such…
    Now they even wanna make spacecraft manufacture it's own solar panels in space… Which I'm quite sure will suck in efficiency and reliability compared to stuff made here on Earth. 🙂
    Just get yourself a bigger rocket, NASA – like in the olden days. Don't be a cheap ass, or at least do what works and works fast.

  • A roll of flexible solar panels could be unrolled with an inflatable tubes forming booms. Made out of a polymer that hardens in UV the booms would stay rigid when the inflating gas leaks and runs out.

  • Great video, very impressive technology! I hope they make quick progress and don't get too many obstacles on the way, it would be awesome if they could just put spools of plastic wrap in orbit, extend them and spray them with Perovskite to get solar panels 🙂

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