Fibers used in space research are exposed to cosmic radiation, resulting in a degradation of their optical properties. Once irradiated, these fibers dissipate heat that could be harvested and converted into electrical energy to power the satellites functions. This is why Professor Federico Rosei of Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) is working to optimize fibers for use in space and in energy recovery.
Professor Rosei’s team is leading this project in collaboration with Polytechnique Montréal and the Montréal-based companies Pi-SOL Technologies and MPB Communications.
“This partnership leverages each group’s complementary expertise to achieve our shared goals of monitoring and optimizing innovative devices for applications in space,” said Professor Rosei, recipient of the 2021 Prix du Québec Marie-Victorin.
This multidisciplinary project will further develop Québec’s expertise in telecommunications, advanced technologies, and aerospace engineering. Improving the performance and extending the durability of fibers doped with erbium and ytterbium, two rare earth metals, will meet the needs of the aerospace industry.
“The support provided by our government for research on innovative materials will allow Québec’s aerospace sector to continue its development and remain a leader in future technologies,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Minister Responsible for Regional Economic Development.
Two phases of research
The team will first focus on optimizing a “photobleaching” process for regenerating fibers exposed to radiation. This process uses a laser source to restore the optical properties of the fibers. This first step will provide a better understanding of fiber–laser interactions and the effects of radiation on the materials.
In the second stage, the team will focus on converting the heat dissipated by the fibers into electrical energy. To this end, the scientists will develop a thermoelectric coating to ensure optimal energy recovery.
This project will ultimately make it possible to conduct very high-speed satellite communications for as long as the fibers are used in space. This would allow scientists to receive Earth observation images in near real time.
About the project
The project, entitled “Développement de fibres optiques actives de haute puissance dopées à l’erbium et à l’erbium-ytterbium pour télécommunications satellites ultra-rapides” [Development of high-power active optical fibers doped with erbium and erbium-ytterbium for ultra-fast satellite communications], is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and PRIMA Québec.
INRS is a university dedicated exclusively to graduate level research and training. Since its creation in 1969, INRS has played an active role in Québec’s economic, social, and cultural development and is ranked first for research intensity in Québec. INRS is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Québec City, Montréal, Laval, and Varennes, with expertise in strategic sectors: Eau Terre Environnement, Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Urbanisation Culture Société, and Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie. The INRS community includes more than 1,500 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and staff.