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Author(s) of the publication: M. Rogovaya

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Today we can more and more often hear talks about swift exhaustion of hydrocarbon fuel and a neces-sity of mastering alternative energy sources, e.g. solar batteries. Unfortunately, they did not receive wide recognition in the world, including Russia. According to Oleg Pchelyakov, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), Head of the Department of Semiconductor Materials Growth and Structure, Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, vacuum space laboratories shall mend the current situation. He told about this promising project to the RF Science and Technology magazine. Siberian re-searchers together with members of the University of Houston (USA) have been working at this project already for several years.

National specialists as early as at the beginning of the 1970s developed photodetector arrays of infrared band, electron-optical transformers, microwave transistors, and quantum interferometers*. As regards crystal grow-ing for solar batteries, scientists in Novosibirsk gradual-

See: A. Skrinsky, "Cognition of Matter", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2007.-Ed

стр. 11

Solar-terrestrial relations.

ly came to the conclusion that it would be cheaper tech-nically and economically to solve this problem outside our atmosphere as the efficiency of such work on the Earth would not exceed 15-16 percent. Such severe restrictions on the level of solar battery efficiency are conditioned not only by thickness of a semiconductor layer but also by a film composition and quality of grown crystals of silicon. These characteristics can be improved only by obtaining required material in a very clean con-ditions maximally approximate to ideal vacuum. It will allow to bring efficiency of light conversion into elec-tricity to 30 percent and consequently to twice decrease the surface of batteries given the same capacity.

It is very expensive and ineffective to construct vacu-um chambers on the Earth, as it needs extremely clean rooms of hundreds of square meters and the equipment for almost a billion dollars. Moreover, if we once saw up, for example, gallium arsenide* in such chamber, it will be impossible to grow crystals of silicon and germanium there afterwards, as arsenic as a part of the first com-pound, precipitating on the chamber walls and evapo-rating even at room temperature, will change the char-acteristics of the second material to an extent, when the obtained product will possess properties of a metal and not a semiconductor.

By the way, organization of space laboratories was ini-tiated by Alex Ignatiev, a descendant of Russian emi-grants of the first wave and today an emeritus professor of the University of Houston working on promising materials and one of the NASA scientific experts. In the 1960s, another American scientist of Slavonic origin Kostof made calculations of functioning of an appropri-ate laboratory, which proved that at the first cosmic velocity behind a space vehicle flying outside the Earth atmosphere, there is formed an area with practically no substance. Thus, he set forth the concept of a space lab-oratory. It can be of any size-suffice it to fix an umbrel-la-like screen of the required diameter to a flying orbital station.

Needless to say that at that time nobody believed that such laboratory offered ideal conditions for growing of pure crystal structures, therefore, the Kostof invention found no application. Interest to his idea was revived at the end of the 1980s, and ten years later flights of orbital vehicles with necessary devices already started. The USA was the first to launch such vehicle for growing of

* Arsenides are chemical compounds of arsenic and metals; they are important semiconductors.-Ed.

стр. 12

Russian segment of the International Space Station.

silicon films. Its weight exceeded 3.5 t, and the cost of launching such cargo amounted to millions of dollars.

Today the Russian project is sponsored by Energiya Missile and Space Corporation, and it is planned to lay a part of costs on private investors in future. The world scientific community is interested in the ideas of our sci-entists, as it will be possible not only to grow silicon structures but also to carry out deep cleaning of materi-als, create metal films, dielectrics and light-sensitive media in space vacuum laboratories. The Russian spe-cialists sent a business plan of the project to German and French experts, who calculated pay-back of such vacu-um production outside the Earth atmosphere, to find investors.

New research studies in future orbital vacuum labora-tories is entrusted to TsNIlMash Federal State Unitary Enterprise (town of Korolyov, Moscow Region)*. In co-operation with this enterprise, the Institute of Semiconductor Physics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is working out a project of the OKA-T autonomous technological spacecraft. For the time being it exists only in drawings. The Siberian scien-tists are going to implement the project by 2015. The spacecraft will be equipped with vacuum production for growing of silicon plates, which will be returned to the Earth in ballistic capsules. Top Russian specialists in the field of microelectronics work on this project: Academician Kamil Valiev, initiator of "the silicon valley" in the town of Zelenograd, Moscow Region, Academician Alexander Orlikovsky, Director of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Academician Alexander Aseev, Chairman of the Presidium of the RAS Siberian Branch, etc. All this infuses us with hope that having launched vacuum production in outer space, we shall make progress in the level of our technologies for dozens of years.

See: N. Sevastyanov, " The Cause of Legendary Designer Lives On", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2007.-Ed.

M. Rogovaya, Production Unit Will Be Built in Outer Space, "RFScience and Technology", 23.12.2009

Prepared by Yaroslav RENKAS


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