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 Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>