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Air Force, Northrop Showcase Tech Converting Sunlight Into RF Energy

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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Northrop Grumman have demonstrated for the first time a sandwich tile that can convert solar power into radio frequency for a future space-based energy system. 

The tile, which consists of one layer of photovoltaic cells and another with RF transformation and beamforming components, will serve as the base of a conversion panel that will fly with the Arachne experimental satellite in 2025, AFRL said Tuesday.

During a recent Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research event at a Northrop facility, the tile turned sunlight from a solar simulator into RF energy in front of on-site and virtual stakeholders.

“The successful conversion of sunlight into RF energy in a lightweight and scalable architecture is a significant step forward in delivering the technology building blocks to achieve the Arachne mission,” explained Jay Patel, vice president of Northrop’s remote sensing programs business unit.

In November 2019, Northrop received a contract valued at over $100 million for the development of the solar power conversion technology.