From Pisa, a low-cost photovoltaic material developed for space

A new solar cell cover-glassing method sets it apart from other low-cost panels

Dalla ricerca pisana il fotovoltaico low cost  nato per lo Spazio( – There is all the genius of Italy in UniSat-5, the micro satellite launched with the Russian-Ukrainian vector Dnepr on the morning of November 21st from the  Yasny Russian base.  Conceived as a microscopic space base to launch into orbit even smaller satellites, UniSat-5 has been devised by a pool of student-researchers and is part of a programme being developed by the Astrodinamica working group of Scuola di Ingegneria Aerospaziale  of Rome’s ‘La Sapienza’ university (Italy).

The satellite features an experimental photovoltaic module designed and built by Stefan Gregucci, a scholarship holder at Pisa university’s Civil Engineering department. The young Italian researcher has developed a low-tech  installation method in collaboration with Alta SpA and GAUSS Srl.  “A feature setting this panel apart from other low-cost products is a new solar cell cover-glassing method – says Stefan Gregucci – Solar cells have been embedded in the panel substrate using an innovative technique that unlike current methods requires no special tools or technologies; this has enhanced working performances while reducing construction costs”.


The module has been extensively tested for compatibility with the space environment by vibration testing together with the whole satellite, to simulate the stress associated with launch. But these excellent results are only the beginning: the university’s next goal is to improve further the module’s mechanical and thermal properties with carbon fibre and glass fibre substrates. To do this they will also use the data from the UNISAT-5 mission that will be coming in over the next few months. “The know-how acquired by Pisa university and Alta SpA in the course of this research project, which has culminated in the crucial experience of space flight – comments Prof. Marcuccio – have enhanced our position and our ability to compete on the market for low-cost, high-performance solar panels for small satellites, a highly mobile and fast-developing market because it brings space within the reach even of those who have limited resources”.