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In-space power generation system based on floating electrodynamic tethers with low work function.

Country of Origin: Spain
Reference Number: TOES20200220001
Publication Date: 21 February 2020

Summary

Spanish university developed an in-space power generation system that transforms the orbital energy into power for on-board use. Thanks to the geomagnetic field and the relative motion with respect to the ambient plasma of 2 floating electrodynamic tethers or set of tethers, connected to a battery or impedance, a steady current is generated. Tether segments capture electrons from plasma and emit them through the thermionic and photoelectric effects. Looking for financial and license agreements.

Description

A Spanish university presents an in-space power generation system based on floating electrodynamic tethers to be use under the presence of ambient plasma and geomagnetic field, like Low Earth Orbit around the Earth. The inventors have a broad experience on tether technology. The patent has been developed in the framework of a collaboration between two spanish univeristies.

The proposed and original system generates power for on-board use and it involves two floating tethers or set of tethers that are responsible of the electron capture and emission. Each tether or set of tethers is connected to the poles of a battery or impedance, a property that is key for the operation of the system. The tethers, or segments of the tethers, should be manufactured with a coating that enhances the emission of electrons through thermionic and/or photoelectric effects. The optical properties of tethers, including absorptivity and emissivity, should be designed to keep hot the tethers. The patent show thats, thanks to the relative motion of the tether with respect to the plasma and the presence of the magnetic field, a steady current is generated along the tethers. Such a current is used to generate a power for on-board use in a passive manner and with no need for consumable (propellant or expellant). In Low Earth Orbit, the system would deorbit the spacecraft while giving power.

They are looking for space agencies and large industries in the field of in-orbit power generation to reach financial or license agreement for funding and technical support in material science.

Advantages and Innovations

Innovative aspects:
- Power Generation system based on floating electrodynamic tethers deployed in opposite directions.
- It considers the photoelectrons emitted by the tether illuminated by the Sun.
- Use of coating materials that enable the thermionic and photoelectric emission.
- Mathematical model for the calculation of the generated power and the optimal design of the system.
- Robust system against micrometeoroid impact thanks to the use of several tethers.
Advantages:
- No need for consumable (propellant or expellant)
- Passive operation.
- Endless operation if the coating properties are not degraded.
- No precise attitude control is needed.
- Scalability to adapt the system to a broad range of orbital parameters and power requirements.

Stage Of Development

Concept stage

Requested partner

They are looking for space agencies and large industries.
Specific area of activity of the partner: In-orbit power generation.
Task to be performed: Funding and technical support in material science.
Looking for financial and license agreement

Kooperationsanfrage stellen