THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8
What happened to the Bell solar cell?
For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.
8-What happened to the Bell solar cell?
After such high expectations, the inventors could not help but wonder, “What to do with our new baby.” Desperate to find commercial applications, solar cells found their way powering novelty items such as toys and transistor radios. Then the space race came. The first two sputniks went dead after several weeks in space as they ran on battery power alone. No one could go up and recharge or replace them. For the same reason fuel-powered engines were ruled out. Any satellite that had to function for more than three weeks or so on solar cells appeared to be the perfect source of power. The first solar-run satellite – the Vanguard - went up in March, 1958. It kept on transmitting data over the next six years. The success of solar on the Vanguard led engineers and scientists working with satellites to accept the solar cell as one of the critically important devices in the space program since they provided the only practical power source for long-term missions. The urgent demand for solar cells above the earth opened an unexpectedly large and lucrative business for manufacturing them. Locked into the space race with the Russians, the American government poured millions into solar cell research and development. As solar-cell pioneer contends, “The onset of the Space Age was the salvation of the solar-cell industry.” click here for more