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Clean Power System for producing electricity on the Moon. Fresnel reflectors (dark blue and grey mirrors) will concentrate solar rays into the elongated collector above. Beneath, there is a tube filled with fluid that transforms into a gas when heated. This heats the thermal mass or reservoir (grey box), which can transfer it to a Stirling engine (cross-shaped object) to produce electricity. The radiator (green) can heat rovers and crew. The yellow cover prevents the heat from rapidly dissipating.
Image Credit: Blai Climent et al

Published on January 13th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Concentrated Solar System Unveiled For Heat & Electricity On The Moon

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January 13th, 2014 by
 
A new system capable of providing substantial quantities of power for any potential future missions to the moon — think lunar vehicles and crew stations — was recently developed by researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and a number of international collaborators.

The new “system of mirrors” utilizes Fresnel reflectors along with processed and modified lunar soil (regolith) to capture the energy of the Sun’s rays — energy which is then used either to heat equipment and/or living spaces during the long lunar nights, or to power a Stirling engine (producing electricty).

System for producing electricity on the Moon. Fresnel reflectors (dark blue and grey mirrors) will concentrate solar rays into the elongated collector above. Beneath, there is a tube filled with fluid that transforms into a gas when heated. This heats the thermal mass or reservoir (grey box), which can transfer it to a Stirling engine (cross-shaped object) to produce electricity. The radiator (green) can heat rovers and crew. The yellow cover prevents the heat from rapidly dissipating. Image Credit: Blai Climent et al

System for producing electricity on the Moon. Fresnel reflectors (dark blue and grey mirrors) will concentrate solar rays into the elongated collector above. Beneath, there is a tube filled with fluid that transforms into a gas when heated. This heats the thermal mass or reservoir (grey box), which can transfer it to a Stirling engine (cross-shaped object) to produce electricity. The radiator (green) can heat rovers and crew. The yellow cover prevents the heat from rapidly dissipating.
Image Credit: Blai Climent et al


Such a system is of potentially great use — precluding the necessity for complex battery systems or nuclear power sources, such as those used recently on board the rover that China landed on the moon.

The press release from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia provides more:

The lunar night lasts approximately 14 days, during which temperatures as low as -150 ºC have been recorded. This complicates vehicle movement and equipment functioning on the lunar surface, requiring the transport of heavy batteries from Earth or the use of nuclear energy, as exemplified by the Chinese rover Yutu. But now, a team of researchers have provided two new solutions to the question of storing energy on the Moon during the day for use at night — potentially addressing these issues.

“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,” states Ricard Gonzalez-Cinca, a physics researcher at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and co-author of the new study. “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.”

“This system is better equipped than the previous model for lunar projects with greater energy needs, such as a manned mission spending the night on the moon.”

Many of the most prominent spaces agencies of the world — including NASA, the European Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration — are currently aiming to put people back on the moon sometime during the 2020′s. New technologies such as the one detailed in this article will likely be necessary for such missions to prove successful.

The new research was just published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Jouni Valkonen

    Tesla has debunked the myth that electric vehicle batteries are heavy. Also we can expect to double the energy density of batteries in near future. If Lunar rover has lightweight 200 kWh battery, it can easily survive 14 days of darkness.

    Radioisotope generators have also their merits with heating Lunar rovers and providing range extension. 4 kg Plutonium-238 produces about 2 kW heat and it costs only about $40 million. I doubt that there are more cost efficient methods to provide enough heating to survive lunar night.

    Also the most probable place, when we are looking a location for Lunar base, is on the poles that have peaks that are bashing on eternal sunlight. Poles are also good, because there are craters that are in eternal darkness and hence they harbor plenty of water ice and probably also other volatiles.

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