NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:In-Situ Resource Utilization & Space Manufacturing
PROPOSAL TITLE:Lunar In-Situ Fabrication: The Manufacturing of Thin Film Solar Cells on the Surface of the Moon

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Nano EnerTex
4131 Grennoch
Houston ,TX 77025 - 2303
(713) 667 - 9558

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Laura   Ignatiev
4131 Grennoch
Houston, TX  77025 -2303
(713) 667 - 9558

The utilization of space resources can enable sustained affordable exploration of the Moon and beyond in the nation's Exploration Initiative. The availability of low-cost, abundant indigenous electric power is critical to the aggressive implementation of space resource utilization. This power-rich space environment can be achieved by the generation of electrical power from thin film photovoltaic solar cells produced on the surface of the Moon from lunar resources. This concept of operation offers a specific advantage in the capability of continuous power growth by addition of solar cells, manufactured in situ, to an expanding power grid. Such an effective power system on the Moon would lower operational risks of future robotic and manned missions through higher reliability. In addition, such architecture has the capability to deliver power at a decreasing cost per kWh beyond the first 100 kWh or so. We propose the development of the key thin film silicon solar cell technologies needed to demonstrate the fabrication of thin-film solar cells on the surface of the Moon, and to present a preliminary design of a roving vehicle to support these operations.

This in-situ thin film solar cell fabrication approach to electrical energy generation on the Moon yields a much more cost-effective power system than one transported from Earth, and also results in steadily reduced energy costs due to the continual fabrication of additional solar cells without the need for substantial resupply of materials from Earth. Current projections comparing Earth manufactured and delivered solar cell arrays with in-situ manufactured arrays indicate a clear cost benefit at emplacement of a > 100kW PV power system. Furthermore, the harsh lunar radiation environment, and dust induced mechanical erosion will result in severe performance degradation of traditional earth manufactured solar cells, requiring additional mass to the Moon. The proposed project overcomes these limitations and provides an affordable, power rich environment for exploration and utilization of the Moon and beyond. This unique in-situ resource utilization program which also stresses manufacturing it the space environment is projected to yield major benefit not only through cost-effective supply of energy in space, but also through the generation of an energy?rich environment in space

Thin film silicon solar cells are currently not a terrestrial production item, with both crystalline and amorphous silicon solar cells capturing most of the market. However, developments under this program may prove viable for silicon-on-glass solar cells that could be cost effective terrestrially. Nano EnerTex will be evaluating the terrestrial possibilities for such terrestrial thin film silicon cells. In addition, efforts in the development of CdS/CdTe thin film solar cells, which have major benefits in energy reduction for lunar fabrication, may also have direct terrestrial application through low-cost, efficient thin film solar cells. This possibility will also be evaluated for commercial opportunities, and could be of further benefit to NASA through the availability of cost-effective solar cells alternative to silicon that could be used in the space environment.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

In-situ Resource Utilization
Photovoltaic Conversion
Renewable Energy

Form Printed on 09-19-05 13:12