Successful launch of German research rocket to improve the quality and efficiency of solar cells

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) announced last week  the successful launch into space of TEXUS 51 research rocket from the Esrange Space Center near Kiruna in northern Sweden on 23 April.


TEXUS 51 research rocket carried four German biology and materials science experiments to an altitude of 259 kilometres. During the nearly 20 minute research flight, the experiments were under microgravity conditions for approximately six minutes. The payloads were then returned to the ground by parachute.

ParSiWal experiment for solar energy 

One of the experiments on board is ParSiWal; its goal is to improve the quality and efficiency of solar cells. It does this by determining the critical incorporation rate of particles during the directional solidification of solar silicon in space.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology (IISB) in Erlangen, the University of Freiburg and the University of Bayreuth have been studying the unwanted incorporation of silicon carbide particles that can occur during the crystallisation of silicon.

In the industrial production of silicon solar cells for photovoltaics, silicon carbide particles impede the mechanical processing of the product and reduce the efficiency of solar cells. Therefore, the incorporation of these particles in the silicon crystal needs to be prevented.

For this reason, the researchers want to understand through experimentation what mechanisms are responsible for this process. Microgravity is an important prerequisite for the experiments since gravity has a significantly influence on the flow of molten materials.

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Source: News Release by German Aerospace Center (DLR). Image Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR).