October 9, 2019

MicroLink Devices, a leader in the production of high-efficiency, flexible solar arrays for satellite and aircraft, was recognized by Airbus Defence and Space as a key supplier for the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) UAV platform. MicroLink and Airbus celebrated this event with employees on October 1, 2019, in a ceremony near MicroLink’s Chicago headquarters.

MicroLink Devices manufactures a high-efficiency solar sheet product line that is an enabling technology for electrically powered UAVs and pseudo-satellites which have significant area and weight constraints. The combination of high-efficiency and low mass enabled by MicroLink’s epitaxial lift-off (ELO) inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cells provides superior performance unmatched by any other solar cell technology. The latest generation of MicroLink solar sheet products has specific powers exceeding 1.5 kW/kg. The development of MicroLink’s ELO technology over the past decade has been sponsored by numerous U.S. agencies including NASA, DARPA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, NAVAIR, Army Research Office, Army REF, CERDEC, and the Department of Energy/NREL.

“We are very grateful to Airbus to have had the opportunity to partner with them in making continuous, multi-month solar-powered flight possible through the Zephyr platform,” said Dr. Noren Pan, President and CEO of MicroLink Devices. “Our proprietary solar cell technology provides unrivalled performance in a lightweight, flexible format and is a critical technology for the success of HAPS platforms. MicroLink looks forward to scaling up its production of IMM solar cells to support the exciting emerging markets enabled by the Zephyr platform.”

Airbus representatives and MicroLink employees
Airbus representatives with MicroLink employees on October 1, 2019, celebrating MicroLink's recognition by Airbus as a key supplier of advanced solar cell arrays for the Zephyr HAPS UAV platform.

September 27, 2019

MicroLink Devices, a leader in the production of high-efficiency, flexible solar arrays for satellite and aircraft, announced today that it has completed delivery of its first production contract of solar arrays to Prismatic Ltd. for integration into their PHASA-35 high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (HALE UAV). These lightweight, flexible solar arrays have the highest specific power of any solar technology and enable the PHASA-35 to fly for months at a time powered by sunlight alone.  

The solar cells incorporate three semiconductor materials with different bandgaps in a single, ultra-thin and lightweight structure that enables greater than 30% of the sunlight to be converted into electrical energy. This high conversion efficiency has previously only been available for high-cost satellites using rigid and heavy solar cells. MicroLink's patented inverted metamorphic multijunction (IMM) technology enables the manufacture of high efficiency devices in a thin and flexible format that produces over 2.0 kW of power from each kilogram of solar cell material.

"Solar powered HALE UAVs rely on the ability to transform as much power from the sun as possible on the limited areas of the wing and to do this with the minimal amount of weight," explained Prismatic's CTO, Dr. Darryl Sergison, "The triple junction structure enables effective partitioning of the solar spectrum for energy conversion whilst MicroLink's lightweight design has proven itself to minimise the mass of this power generation."

Dr. Noren Pan, President of MicroLink Devices noted the synergy of MicroLink's technology with HALE UAV requirements, "Our proprietary solar cell technology provides unrivalled efficiency and low mass, which is critical in ensuring that these new HALE UAV systems can deliver the highest level of performance year-round over the widest possible markets. MicroLink is well-positioned to scale up the production of IMM solar cells to support the exciting emerging markets enabled by HALE UAV over the next few years."


April 18, 2018

MicroLink Devices, Inc. has achieved a 37.75% power conversion efficiency from a three-junction epitaxial lift-off (ELO) thin-film solar cell. The device performance was officially certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and tested under the industry standard air mass 1.5 global (AM1.5G) simulated 1-Sun solar spectrum. The 37.75% efficiency is the highest reported for a triple junction ELO solar cell produced on a 6-inch GaAs substrate production platform. The specific power of this ELO solar cell design exceeds 3000 W/kg under 1-sun AM0 spectrum, which is the world’s record in comparison to any other solar cell technology. These solar cells are currently used to provide energy to the Zephyr HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) platform produced by Airbus Defence and Space in Farnborough, UK.  MicroLink has an exclusive licensing agreement with NREL for the inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) technology used to manufacture the high-efficiency solar device.

MicroLink's high-efficiency triple-junction IMM ELO solar cells being tested.

MicroLink’s proprietary ELO process makes it possible to peel off thin layers of active solar cell material that were deposited on a GaAs semiconductor substrate. The expensive GaAs substrate can also be re­used multiple times to lower manufacturing costs. MicroLink’s ELO technology development has been supported over the past decade by numerous US agencies including NASA, DARPA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, NAVAIR, Army Research Office, Army REF, CERDEC, ARPA-E, and the Department of Energy.

“We are continuing to push the limits of what can be achieved with the ELO technology,” said Dr. Noren Pan, founder and president of MicroLink Devices. “Our triple-junction IMM ELO solar cells combine the highest efficiency with the lowest mass density of any solar cell technology available today. This represents a compelling solution for demanding unmanned aerial vehicle and satellite applications.”

More details about the record ELO cell performance will be presented at the upcoming Space Power Workshop in Los Angeles (April 23-27) and IEEE Photovoltaics Specialists Conference in Waikoloa, HI (June 10-15).

About MicroLink Devices:
Established in 2000, MicroLink Devices is located in Niles, IL and specializes in the design, epitaxial growth and fabrication of compound semiconductor devices including heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs), solar cells, lasers and photodetectors. In recent years, MicroLink has ramped up the production of its ELO-based solar cells and sheets for use in mobile power, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and traditional satellite applications.

April 16, 2018

MicroLink Devices is pleased to announce that it has been awarded the following Phase I and Phase II programs.

1)  Navy SBIR Phase I Program: Floating Solar Arrays for Long-Endurance Sonobuoy Power Generation

The Navy has established the need for a long duration, maintenance-free power source to fit in a sonobuoy.  Power sources are required to integrate into the Navy's existing buoy handling logistics and be ready for deployment and operation at any time without the need for peripheral charging equipment or human intervention.  MicroLink Devices will develop a floating solar array that, when combined with rechargeable batteries, will be capable of continuously powering a sonobuoy for several years.  The array will be composed of our highly-efficient, lightweight, flexible epitaxial lift-off (ELO) GaAs solar cells so that it can be rolled up inside the sonobuoy prior to deployment.

2)  Navy STTR Phase II Program: Novel, High-Efficiency, Light-weight, Flexible Solar Cells as Electrical Power Generation Source

MicroLink Devices will integrate its high-efficiency, lightweight, and flexible solar sheets to the Puma UAS platform to significantly extend the flight endurance of the aircraft.  The Navy has a growing fleet of small UAS vehicles that enable tactical ISR capabilities not possible before, and a need to extended mission lengths of these battery-powered platforms is apparent.  MicroLink’s inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) multi-junction ELO solar cell technology is the basis for manufacturing an advanced thin-film solar sheet technology that can produce enough power to sustain flight.  MicroLink will apply volume production techniques to solar cell and module manufacture for scale up and cost reduction.  Flexible solar cell array modules will be manufactured and integrated into the wing of a Puma UAS platform in a method that can be applied to other battery-powered UAS platforms.  For the Puma, output power from the solar enhanced wing will be in excess of 130 W enabling 8 or more hours of flight. 

3)  NASA SBIR Phase II Program: Radiation Tolerant >35% Efficient Phosphide-Based Multi-Junction Solar Cells with Epitaxial Lift-Off

As the world leader in volume production of large-area ELO III-V IMM solar cells, MicroLink will develop phosphide-based ELO-IMM four-junction (4J) and five-junction (5J) solar cells that will enhance the performance and capabilities of solar photovoltaic arrays for a variety of future NASA missions.  Relative to state-of-the-art incumbent (Al)GaInP/GaInAs/Ge wafer-based 3J space solar cells, the proposed 4J and 5J solar cells have superior radiation tolerance, higher beginning-of-life (BOL) and end-of-life (EOL) efficiencies (η), lower areal mass density, higher specific power, higher operating voltage, lower cost, and inherent flexibility.

About MicroLink Devices:

MicroLink Devices is an American owned company located in Niles, IL.  Dr. Noren Pan co­founded MicroLink Devices in 2000. MicroLink has specialized in the growth of epitaxial structures that are used to make the high performance HBTs and power amplifiers that are essential to the high-speed communications industry.  MicroLink is an ISO 9001 certified semiconductor manufacturer.  Over the last eight years, MicroLink has been a prime federal contractor on projects to develop solar cells, detectors, lasers, and high-speed transistors.  In recent years, MicroLink has ramped up the production of its ELO-based solar cells and sheets for use in mobile power generation applications.

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