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solar battery[′sō·lər ′bad·ə·rē]
an array of solar cells, which are semiconductor devices that convert the energy of solar radiation directly into electrical energy. The operation of the solar cells is based on the photovoltaic effect. The first solar cells having a conversion efficiency (~6 percent) acceptable for practical purposes were developed by G. Pearson, C. Fuller, and D. Chapin of the USA in 1953 and 1954. Important theoretical and practical contributions to the development of solar cells were made by V. S. Vavi-lov, A. P. Landsman, N. S. Lidorenko, and V. K. Subashiev of the USSR and by M. Wolf, J. Loferski, M. Prince, and P. Rappoport of the USA.
The energy characteristics of a solar battery depend on the semiconductor material used, the design (structural) features of the cells, and the number of cells in the battery. Si and GaAs are commonly used in solar cells; CdS and CdTe are employed less often. The highest efficiencies are obtained in p-n junction cells made from Si (15 percent when irradiated under terrestrial conditions) and in heterojunction cells based on GaAs (18 percent).
Solar batteries are usually constructed in the form of a flat panel of solar cells protected by transparent coatings. The number of cells in a battery may be as high as several hundred thousand, the panel area may be tens of square meters, the current may be hundreds of amperes, the voltage may be tens of volts, and the generated power may be several tens of kilowatts (under space conditions). The advantages of solar batteries are simplicity, reliability, long life, the small weight and size of the solar cells, and the ability to generate power without polluting the environment. The principal drawback limiting the development of solar-battery power is that, as of the mid-1970’s, the cost of solar batteries remains high.
The principal application of solar batteries has been in space exploration, where they are the dominant self-contained power source. They are used to provide electric power for the equipment in artificial satellites and for the life-support systems of manned spacecraft and space stations and to charge the electrochemical storage batteries used in the portions of an orbit that do not receive sunlight. Under terrestrial conditions, solar batteries are used to supply power for automatic equipment, portable radio stations, and radio receivers and to provide cathodic electro-protection of oil and gas pipelines against corrosion. The USSR, the USA, and Japan have beacons and navigation markers using electric power from solar batteries and from buffer storage batteries that are charged by the solar batteries. (See alsoCURRENT SOURCES.)
REFERENCESPreobrazovanie tepla i khimicheskoi energii v elektroenergiiu v raketnykh sistemakh. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Uspekhi SSSR v issledovanii kosmkheskogo prostranstva. Moscow, 1968.
Vasil’ev, A. M., and A. P. Landsman. Poluprovodnikovye fotopreobrazovateli. Moscow, 1971.
M. M. KOLTUN