Ultra-Light Asymmetric Photovoltaic Sandwich Structures
This work evaluated the possibility of using silicon solar cells as load-carrying elements in composite sandwich structures. Such an ultra-light multifunctional structure is a new concept enabling weight, and thus energy, to be saved in high-tech applications such as solar cars, solar planes or satellites. Composite sandwich structures with a weight of not, vert, similar800 g/m2 were developed, based on one 140 μm thick skin made of 0/90° carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), one skin made of 130 μm thick mono-crystalline silicon solar cells, thin stress transfer ribbons between the cells, and a 29 kg/m3 honeycomb core. Particular attention was paid to investigating the strength of the solar cells under bending and tensile loads, and studying the influence of sandwich processing on their failure statistics. Two prototype multi-cell modules were produced to validate the concept. The asymmetric sandwich structure showed balanced mechanical strength; i.e. the solar cells, reinforcing ribbons, and 0/90° CFRP skin were each of comparable strength, thus confirming the potential of this concept for producing stiff and ultra-lightweight solar panels.