Simulated moon dust has been used to make the substrate of a solar cell, according to University of Houston researchers. The fine grey powder is 50% silicon dioxide, along with a mixture of oxides of twelve different metals (including aluminum, magnesium and iron).
Alex Freundlich and his colleagues melted JSC-1, a powder that simulates the lunar regolith samples brought back by Apollo astronauts, in a vacuum. The melted powder solidifies into a smooth, glassy sheet on which solar cells may be deposited by thermal evaporation. The finished cell can then convert sunlight into electricity.
The simulated lunar solar panels are only about one percent efficient in converting sunlight to electricity (conventional cells convert about twenty percent).
In his 1951 novel The Moon is Hell, John W. Campbell wrote about marooned members of the second lunar expedition surviving by manufacturing solar cells using lunar materials.
Read more at Lunar colony to run on moon dust and robots and . Thanks to Winchell Chung for the idea for this story.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)
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Bill Christensen is the founder and editor of Technovelgy, a website dedicated to cataloguing the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers. Bill is a dedicated reader of science fiction with a passion about science and the history of ideas. For 10 years, he worked as writer creating technical documentation for large companies such as Ford, Unisys and Northern Telecom and currently works to found and maintain large websites. You can see Bill's latest project on Twitter.