In-situ approach for thermal energy storage and thermoelectricity generation on the Moon

Modelling and simulation

Document identifier:
Access full text here:10.1016/j.pss.2019.104789
Keyword: Engineering and Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Teknik och teknologier, Maskinteknik, Rymd- och flygteknik, Thermal energy storage, Thermoelectric, MATLAB, Moon, ISRU
Publication year: 2020
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by


Human, tele-operated rovers, and surface infrastructures are now being actively considered for lunar polar exploration. Current approaches to energy provision consider, among others, hybrid direct energy/chemical technologies, such as solar photovoltaic arrays, batteries, and regenerative fuel cells. Due to the long period of darkness on the Moon and the challenges this poses to the aforementioned conventional energy generation and storage technologies, there is a need to assess the potential of In-Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) methods to enable or supplement long duration missions. We present a computational model (MATLAB) of a Thermal Energy Storage (TES) system coupled to drive a heat engine (Thermoelectric Generator) to produce electricity. The TES medium designed is based off processed lunar regolith, an abundant material present on the surface of the Moon. The architecture has been optimized to provide a minimum electrical power of 36 W per unit after 66 h of polar night, but the modular nature of the model allows other ranges of parameter to be simulated. A trade-off between this ISRU-based concept and conventional approaches for energy production and storage was performed and ranked TES and thermoelectricity generation as the least appropriate option. This result is valuable in a period of enthusiasm towards ISRU. It shows that processes exploiting extraterrestrial materials instead of Earth supplies are not systematically attractive. Despite the non-favorable performances for the proposed concept, some perspectives for the TES system are given as well as potential model improvements such as the need to assess the use of a Stirling heat engine.


Patrick Fleith

European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Cologne, Germany. ISAE-SUPAERO, Toulouse, France
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Cowley Aidan

European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Cologne, Germany
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Alberto Canals Pou

European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Cologne, Germany. Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy (CMEM), ETSEIB, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Barcelona, Spain
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Aaron Valle Lozano

Luleå tekniska universitet; European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Linder Hoehe, D-51147, Cologne, Germany. Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier, Route de Narbonne, 31330, Toulouse, France
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Rebecca Frank

European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Cologne, Germany
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Pablo López Córdoba

European Astronaut Centre (ESA/EAC), Cologne, Germany. UPC Escola d’Enginyeria de Telecomunicació i Aeroespacial, Casteldefels, Barcelona
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Ricard González-Cinca

Department of Physics, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech, Castelldefels (Barcelona), Spain
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