Lunar settlement could get a boost from farms of thin solar panels manufactured from the moon’s own surface, say researchers who presented studies of ultrathin solar cells at the NanoSpace 2002 conference.

Using light to free electrons, solar cells usually require pure-grade silicon because any impurities block the flow of electrons necessary to produce an electrical current.

Such pure silicon would be unavailable on the moon, but Charles Horton, a researcher at the University of Houston’s Texas Center for Superconductors and Advanced Materials, proposes a solution: Nanometer-thin solar cells that counteract impurities.