LIST Researchers Look to Test New Energy-Harvesting Technology for Small Satellites

Rather than solar panels, the LIST-SAT-01 is powered by a pyroelectric energy harvester — capturing energy from temperature shifts.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoSustainability

A team of researchers from the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is attempting to prove the potential for energy harvesting in space — through the launch of a CubeSat, dubbed the LIST-SAT-01 and representing the country's first native nanosatellite research project.

"The scientific goals of the CubeSat project revolve around demonstrating the technology of an energy harvesting system," explains project manager Olivier Bouton of the team's work. "The satellite will harvest energy from temperature cycles induced by its orbit. We will leverage this temperature modulation to harvest energy."

The CubeSat, a 2.6lb nanosatellite designed to be launched at the lowest possible cost, is designed around a payload that includes three LIST-developed technologies under test. The first is a "Super Black" coating, which is designed to absorb and emit thermal radiation as efficiently as possible — performing as close to a perfect blackbody as the team could manage. The second are inkjet-printed sensors, thermal gauges that will provide information on the experiment's progress.

The third is the energy harvesting system itself, a pyroelectric energy harvester — designed to exploit changes in the satellite's temperature as it orbits the Earth and gets exposed to varying amounts of sunlight. This is distinct from the traditional method of harvesting energy in space, using solar panels — which are a proven technology, but stop working when the satellite is in shadow.

"This project brings together complementary expertise and skills of different teams within the department of Materials (MRT) of LIST," says LIST's Jérôme Polesel, scientific coordinator on the project. "It is the first time that such energy harvesting technology will be implemented in a satellite, aiming to synergize our different know-hows. This flagship project is truly a big source of motivation for our technical staff."

More information on LIST's space research projects is available on the official website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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