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Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia have created a new system that can store large amounts of energy on the moon in order to power future missions that might require sufficient energy to maintain permanent stations or lunar vehicles.
The new system can collect solar energy during the day and then store it for use during the night, and removes the need to take heavy, complex battery systems, or use nuclear sources, such as that used by the recent Chinese rover Yutu.
The general problem with using solar power on the moon is that the nights last around 14 Earth days, during which temperatures can fall to as low as -150 °C. In order to avoid the inconvenience of taking huge batteries, or nuclear power sources, the team from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia have created two systems that work together to store energy on the moon.
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In a press release from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Ricard Gonzalez-Cinca, a physics researcher and co-author of the study, explained that “the first system consists of modifying fragments of regolith or lunar soil, incorporating elements such as aluminium, for example, such that it becomes a thermal mass. When the Sun’s rays hit the surface, a system of mirrors reflects the light to heat the thermal mass, which later can transmit heat during the night to rovers and other lunar equipment.
The second system is similar, but incorporates a more sophisticated series of mirrors and a heat engine. The mirrors are Fresnel reflectors, such as those used in some solar energy technologies on Earth, which concentrate solar rays upon a fluid-filled tube. This heat converts the liquid into a gas, which in turn heats the thermal mass. Afterwards, during the long lunar night, the heat is transferred to a Stirling engine to produce electricity.”
Cleantechinca notes that many of the larger space agencies around the world, such as NASA, the European Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration, all plan to restart sending manned missions to the moon during the next decade, at which point this technology could become vital to providing the necessary power.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com