Vacuum lab to grow space crystals to be added to Space Station
Scientists are planning to use the space station to grow a new kind of crystal for use in solar cells by 2013.
They say the vacuum conditions in space improve the quality of thin film crystals, giving them properties that are unachievable on Earth.
The technique, called Molecular Beam Epitaxy, could improve electronics, in particular raising the efficiency of solar cells as much as 60%.
Scientists behind the proposed move call it "an industrial evolution".
The scientist explained that the space-grown extremely pure artificial crystals, known as ultra-thin semiconductor films, would be produced in a space vacuum lab, spinning above Earth.
The lab will either be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) or carried by a small unmanned spacecraft that will periodically dock to the ISS.
The semiconductor films would consist of atomic layers formed from different elements, placed on top of one another. Every layer would be a different element, to ultimately form a very thin film of an extremely complex composition.