Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Spacelift’ for Vendée Globe sailor

22.11.2004


When Marc Thiercelin set out on the Vendée Globe, one of the world’s toughest sailing races, earlier this month, novel space technologies were used to give his six-year-old boat a ‘facelift’. Lighter batteries, more efficient solar cells and an intelligent energy management system cut critical weight and optimised vital electricity systems. All three were originally developed for Europe’s space programmes.



"In 2003 we started to discuss with Marc Thiercelin and his team how new technologies could help him and improve his boat," says Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme (TTP). “Weight reduction and an efficient electricity system were soon identified as areas where proven technologies from space could provide interesting solution."

Lighter batteries


"Electricity is fundamental for a boat like this in a race like this. The boat is full of electronics: navigation equipment, computers, radio systems and the autopilot that runs almost all the time. Without these systems it would be difficult to sail around the world single-handed," explains Alexandre Hulin from Bertin Technologies, part of ESA’s TTP network of technology brokers and one of the key-players in the spin-off to Marc Thiercelin of ESA technology. "One of the most important issues for this type of race is how to reduce weight, so when we proposed solutions with lighter batteries and more efficient solar cells, they were quickly accepted," he added.

To guarantee 24-hours of autonomy – a vital requirement - conventional maritime batteries weigh around 250 kg. Using a new type of battery developed for satellites in the 1990s, the French company SAFT managed to reduce the weight to 110 kg. This really helped Thiercelin to strip all possible weight to keep his six-year-old 60-foot Pro Form competitive with the more recent super-fast monohulls of some of the Vendée Globe participants.

Better solar cells

Space technology also made other improvements to the batteries. At sea, batteries can be charged in two ways: by solar cells when possible or with a diesel generator. The German company Solara designed two panels of ’space type’ polysilicon solar cells. These have an efficiency rate of 12-13% compared to most maritime solar cells that have an 8-10% efficiency. Just six square metres of the polysilicon solar cells provide enough energy to charge the batteries when there is sunlight - particularly when the boat is near the Equator. Plus, because of the cells’ higher efficiency, less fuel is needed for the diesel generator.

Improving the electrics

"A special energy management system was developed by the small French start-up company Accuwat, using advanced technology developed by EADS for European spacecraft," says Hulin. "This controls the voltage level of the batteries and stops charging once the batteries are fully charged, this is very important as batteries can be damaged by overcharging." "An additional benefit is that collaboration between SAFT, Accuwat and Solara to adapt space technology for the boat has led to closer collaboration between the companies. This could lead to innovative and better performing power systems for boats in general," emphases Hulin.

Marc Thiercelin

Forty-four-year-old Thiercelin is a born sailor. He started amateur racing at ten, went on to teach sailing when he was 15 and then, with others, created a sailing school that he managed for 10 years from 1983 to 1993.

Having completed two Vendée Globe races, the 1996-1997 and the 2000-2001, plus the ‘Around Alone’ race in 1998-1999, Thiercelin has sailed over 470 000 km of the world’s oceans and is a very experienced yachtsmen. "We are happy to team up with a professional sailor like Marc,” says Pierre Brisson, “it gives us the opportunity, once again, to demonstrate the strength of some of Europe’s space technologies – and this time in one of the toughest sailing races in the world".

The Vendée Globe is a non-stop 37 000 km voyage from west to east, across three oceans and around three capes. Will French yachtsman Thiercelin, backed by space technology, win the race and maybe even set a new record beating Michel Desjoyeaux who completed the 2001 race in just 93 days and 4 hours?

We will know more in the coming months, until then, good luck, Marc!

Pierre Brisson | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>