It seems that solar energy awaits a promising future on the surface of the moon, after its effectiveness on the planet has increased over the past years.
In an attempt to take advantage of its successes, a group of scientists in Estonia is studying crystals of the mineral pyrite – popularly known as false gold – and using it to manufacture solar cells.
The results of these research activities will be used to provide electricity for a future lunar base of the European Space Agency and its international partners.
Solar energy on the moon
In the future, solar energy will play a major role in powering long-range space missions, and meeting the needs of human presence on the Moon or Mars.
Although this may seem a fantasy to some, the task of finding active materials to make solar cells was entrusted to a group of scientists at the European Space Agency, according to what was published by the website. BV Magazine.
Researchers from Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia are currently studying microcrystalline of iron pyrite, as a new material for the production of solar cells.
The main reason for their interest in this substance is not due to its efficiency, effectiveness or cost, but rather to its abundance on the surface of the moon and Mars.
The head of the University’s Solar Energy Materials Laboratory, Marit Koc Kosik, said that researchers have been working on the mono-chip technology for ground applications for two decades, and the European Space Agency began researching 6 years ago, when they found that the technology was promising for space applications.
The goal of the first collaborative project was to test the efficiency of the technology and its ability to withstand the space environment.
After passing the tests, the idea arose to use the technology to operate a future lunar base, and the goal was to use the materials available in the lunar soil.
The scientists presented a sandpaper-like solar cell containing thousands of micro-crystals with a diameter of 50 micrometers installed inside a polymer, in a single connected chip, and these crystals absorb sunlight.
Then, these crystals are coated with insulating and permeable layers, in this way each crystal acts as an independent solar cell and generates electricity.
“We are studying the role of these microcrystals in support of future settlements of the Moon,” said ESA manufacturing engineer Advinit Makaya.
He continued, “The lunar base in the future must be far from Earth to achieve sustainable development, and the iron and sulfur needed to produce pyrite can be obtained directly from the surface of the moon.”
He pointed out that the scope of the project is in the process of exploring the technical capabilities available for settlement on the moon’s surface and locating the resources.
Scientist Tavi Roddick explained that the goal is to develop a technique for growing pyrite micro-crystals and apply it to single-chip cells, where each micro-crystal acts as an independent solar cell.
He said, “The amount of electricity generated by a small solar cell is small, but with the installation of a normal-sized unit, billions of these batteries will be available, and initially there are no restrictions on size and shape .. In addition, our goal is to collect the necessary resources on the surface of the moon in its original environment.” .
The factor of electricity supply is important in choosing the location of a future lunar base, and the researchers note that the south pole of the moon is most suitable for installing solar energy, as it will be available almost constantly.
The University of Tallinn and the European Space Agency will fund a thesis to study the mineral pyrite and its suitability for long-term use in challenging environments outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
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