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.

Contact Information:
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October 24, 2017

MicroLink Devices has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to commercialize inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cell technology.  The IMM solar cell architecture enables the manufacture of solar cells with very high efficiency as well as light weight, which are ideal for powering satellites and solar aircraft.

150mm ELO-based IMM Wafer

The world's most efficient solar cells are multi-junction, which means that they use multiple light-absorbing layers to convert different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum into electricity.  Multi-junction solar cells based on germanium substrates have historically been used exclusively in very high-performance satellite applications.  The IMM design is an innovative approach to further improve solar cell efficiency by integrating an optimum combination of three or more compound semiconductor materials.  IMM multi-junction solar cells are manufactured by depositing thin layers of semiconductor on a substrate such as gallium arsenide (GaAs).  A metamorphic buffer layer enables the growth of junction materials with ideal bandgaps for energy conversion such as indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) that are not lattice-matched to the GaAs substrate.  MicroLink Devices has demonstrated an efficiency of 32.3% under 1-sun AM0 using an IMM design.

IMM solar cells are synergistic with MicroLink Devices' proprietary epitaxial lift-off (ELO) technology, which has been under development at MicroLink Devices for the past ten years.  Using the ELO process, MicroLink is able to peel off thin layers of active solar cell material that were deposited on the GaAs substrate.  Removing the substrate enables the fabrication of solar cells with exceptional light weight and specific powers greater than 3000 W/kg.  The substrate can also be used multiple times to lower manufacturing costs.  MicroLink's ELO technology was sponsored by numerous US 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.

"We are excited to be manufacturing solar cells and arrays using NREL's IMM technology that have industry-leading performance as well as cost," said Dr. Noren Pan, President and CEO of MicroLink Devices.  "We have been working for more than decade on the scale-up and manufacturing of this design, which enables us to provide very compelling solar solutions for powering high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft and space satellites."

MicroLink Devices has previously announced a production contract to provide ELO multi-junction solar sheets to Airbus Defence and Space for use on the Zephyr S HALE platform. The Zephyr is a new class of unmanned air vehicle that operates as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) enabling affordable, persistent, local satellite-like services.  The aircraft runs exclusively on solar power, and the Zephyr aircraft is at the forefront of the HAPS arena, holding world records with regards to absolute endurance (more than 14 days) and altitude (more than 70,000 feet).

About MicroLink Devices:
MicroLink Devices is US-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 ten years, MicroLink has been a prime federal contractor on programs 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 solar power, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and traditional satellite applications.

Contact Information:

MicroLink Devices, Inc.
Dr. Chris Youtsey, +1-847-588-3001
Chief Technology Officer
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September 20, 2017

MicroLink Devices is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a SBIR Phase I program by the US Army titled "Lightweight Flexible Solar Cells Performance Enhanced with Nanostructures". 

In this effort, MicroLink will increase the integrated energy generated over an entire day by employing novel periodic optical nano patterns to optimize light propagation and absorption in epitaxial lift-off (ELO) GaAs solar cells.  These nanostructures will enhance the absorption and trapping of light by minimizing surface reflectance and altering light propagation paths to increase optical absorption, particularly for longer wavelengths for which optical absorption coefficients are low.  By increasing the optical path length within the cell, light trapping and photon recycling allows for thinner absorbing layers in the solar cell, thereby reducing the overall cost and weight of the cell.  Flexible GaAs ELO solar cells employing optical nanostructures will dramatically outperform the existing II-VI based solar cells such as CIGS and CdTe, or a-Si:H.

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