Radiation Tolerant Nanowire Array Solar Cells

Pilar Espinet-Gonzalez, Enrique Barrigón, Gaute Otnes, Giuliano Vescovi, Colin Mann, Ryan M. France, Alex J. Welch, Matthew S. Hunt, Don Walker, Michael D. Kelzenberg, Ingvar Åberg, Magnus T. Borgström, Lars Samuelson, Harry A. Atwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus Citations


Space power systems require photovoltaics that are lightweight, efficient, reliable, and capable of operating for years or decades in space environment. Current solar panels use planar multijunction, III-V based solar cells with very high efficiency, but their specific power (power to weight ratio) is limited by the added mass of radiation shielding (e.g., coverglass) required to protect the cells from the high-energy particle radiation that occurs in space. Here, we demonstrate that III-V nanowire-array solar cells have dramatically superior radiation performance relative to planar solar cell designs and show this for multiple cell geometries and materials, including GaAs and InP. Nanowire cells exhibit damage thresholds ranging from â'¼10-40 times higher than planar control solar cells when subjected to irradiation by 100-350 keV protons and 1 MeV electrons. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we show that this improvement is due in part to a reduction in the displacement density within the wires arising from their nanoscale dimensions. Radiation tolerance, combined with the efficient optical absorption and the improving performance of nanowire photovoltaics, indicates that nanowire arrays could provide a pathway to realize high-specific-power, substrate-free, III-V space solar cells with substantially reduced shielding requirements. More broadly, the exceptional reduction in radiation damage suggests that nanowire architectures may be useful in improving the radiation tolerance of other electronic and optoelectronic devices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)12860-12869
Number of pages10
JournalACS Nano
Issue number11
StatePublished - 26 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-73775


  • high specific power
  • irradiation-induced defects
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • nanowire solar cells
  • radiation hard
  • space environment
  • space solar cells


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