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S.D. School of Mines & Technology
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Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines - by Subject
Solar Energy

SD Mines Team Pushes to Put CubeSat Swarm in Space

This image shows what a swarm of CubeSats orbiting Earth might look like. Credit NASA.

Satellites are often thought of as huge complicated devices that are deployed on the tops of rockets or in space shuttle payloads. They hold massive telescopes, sophisticated weather monitoring devices or global positioning system components.  The price tag for large satellites is often measured in billions, not millions. 

CubeSats are different. They’re smaller - think volleyball, not Volkswagen - and they’re cheaper.  NASA describes a CubeSat as a “low-cost pathway to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space, thus enabling students, teachers, and faculty to obtain hands-on flight hardware development experience.”  The cost of these nanosatellites is small enough to fit into many school budgets. CubeSats are built to investigate areas of scientific interest such as the earth’s atmosphere, space weather, in-space propulsion, radiation testing, and communication, to name a few. Satellites are selected based on their investigations and how they align with NASA’s strategic plan.

One area of CubeSat research at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is to expand from one small satellite to a swarm of small satellites working together. This has the potential to multiply the impact and effectiveness of a single CubeSat.

“Sometimes you want t...

Last Edited 9/3/2019 10:50:28 AM [Comments (0)]

Ahrenkiel Research Focuses on Nanoengineered Next-Generation Solar Cells

Dr. Phil Ahrenkiel in one of his campus laboratories.

Dr. Phil Ahrenkiel of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology’s Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Program is researching next-generation solar cells thanks to a $179,000 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant. 

Ahrenkiel is developing a novel approach for using earth-abundant and widely available metal aluminum to improve commercializable photovoltaic solar cells. The new cells could help lower the cost of renewable energy. 

These emerging nanoengineering approaches could produce enhanced efficiencies and reduced manufacturing costs and lead to increased production of next-generation solar cells in the United States.  

Ahrenkiel’s goal is to convert sunlight into electricity by depositing thin layers of solar cells onto inexpensive aluminum substrates. 

If the research is successful, it will lead to the fabrication of solar cells on thin, flexible, and lightweight aluminum ribbons or sheets, which could be transferred to glass and integrated with residential or commercial buildings. This technology would be adaptable to a roll-to-roll semiconductor deposition process for mass production of inexpensive solar cells. 

The research will be performed using existing device-processing, electron-microscopy, and optoelectronic-characterization capabilities available at South Dakota Mines, which is partnering with Rochester Institute of Technology and Lakewood Semiconductors on this project ...

Last Edited 11/3/2016 02:59:11 PM [Comments (0)]