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3 April 2018

Ascent Solar ships first Ultralight thin-film modules for high-altitude airships

© Semiconductor Today Magazine / Juno PublishiPicture: Disco’s DAL7440 KABRA laser saw.

Ascent Solar Technologies Inc of Thornton, CO, USA – which makes lightweight, flexible copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic modules that can be integrated into consumer products, off-grid applications and aerospace applications – has developed and shipped its next-generation laminated aerospace product, using Ultralight technology.

Representing an advance over the firm’s prior Superlight technology in terms of weight and performance for ready-to-integrate PV modules for aerospace applications (such as high-altitude airships), Ultralight has been validated in terms of a major contract from a European-based customer.

Valued at more than $300,000, the shipment was delivered ahead of schedule before the end of first-quarter 2018. The Ultralight PV module is the first of its kind for Ascent Solar to introduce two major advances over previous products: next-generation PV developed originally for Ascent’s space customers and manufactured on a substantially thinner substrate than Ascent’s standard bare PV module; and asymmetric laminate packaging to reduce thickness and weight substantially from the Superlight product.

These changes have resulted in vastly reduced areal density to nominally 330g/m2, or about 50% less than ‘thin’ crystalline PV airship options. Nominal specific-power under terrestrial (AM1.5) lighting is 280W/kg, and is projected to exceed 330W/kg in near-space conditions (AM0).

Modules provided to the customer in this shipment are designed for easy integration to reduce assembly time of the power system and increase overall array reliability.

“Our company was created, in part, to address the emerging unmanned high-altitude airship market through the use of our unique, extremely light and flexible photovoltaic product, and we have customizable solar blankets that address multiple aspects of this unique market segment,” says chief technology officer & founding member Dr Joseph Armstrong. “The customer has ordered a custom version of one of our existing 25W Superlight airship PV blankets with dimensions and electrical connections specific to their vehicle. By combining our space PV technology with our new asymmetric laminate packaging, we were able to achieve the breakthrough in terms of substantially higher power-to-weight ratio with Ultralight. Furthermore, our proficiency at rapid prototyping and concurrent design for manufacturability allowed us to accept this custom order with a swift turnaround time to delivery. By proving out the Ultralight construction, we have opened the door for other customers who wanted an even lighter version of our aerospace product that cover drones, tethered aerostats, and both fixed-wing and lighter-than-air high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) applications,” he adds.

“This contract, which accounted for approximately 50% of our 2017 full-year revenue, will be booked as revenue in the first quarter and give the company a strong head start into 2018,” comments president & CEO Victor Lee. “This is not only significant in value but also underscores the power of Ascent’s proprietary technology to address these rapidly emerging and growing premium PV markets,” he adds. “We hope that this contract is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as the airship project, when successfully launched, is expected to be rolled out on a much larger scale in the near future. Our technical team has been working with our aerospace customer to identify the best solution for their needs while providing a product that takes full advantage of the key attributes of our monolithically integrated flexible CIGS PV.”

Tags: Ascent Solar CIGS

Visit: www.AscentSolar.com

Visit: www.skyworksinc.com/Sky5

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