Sorption cooling: a valid extension to passive cooling

D.J. Doornink*, J.F. Burger, H.J.M. ter Brake

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)
    46 Downloads (Pure)


    Passive cooling has shown to be a very dependable cryogenic cooling method for space missions. Several missions employ passive radiators to cool down their delicate sensor systems for many years, without consuming power, without exporting vibrations or producing electromagnetic interference. So for a number of applications, passive cooling is a good choice. At lower temperatures, the passive coolers run into limitations that prohibit accommodation on a spacecraft. The approach to this issue has been to find a technology able to supplement passive cooling for lower temperatures, which maintains as much as possible of the advantages of passive coolers. Sorption cooling employs a closed cycle Joule–Thomson expansion process to achieve the cooling effect. Sorption cells perform the compression phase in this cycle. At a low temperature and pressure, these cells adsorb the working fluid. At a higher temperature they desorb the fluid and thus produce a high-pressure flow to the expander in the cold stage. The sorption process selected for this application is of the physical type, which is completely reversible. It does not suffer from degradation as is the case with chemical sorption of, e.g., hydrogen in metal hydrides. Sorption coolers include no moving parts except for some check valves, they export neither mechanical vibrations nor electromagnetic interference, and are potentially very dependable due to their simplicity. The required cooling temperature determines the type of working fluid to be applied. Sorption coolers can be used in conjunction with passive cooling for heat rejection at different levels. This paper starts with a brief discussion on applications of passive coolers in different types of orbits and on the limitations of passive cooling for lower cooling temperatures. Next, the working principle of sorption cooling is summarized. The DARWIN mission is chosen as an example application of sorption and passive cooling and special attention is paid to the reduction of the radiator area needed by the sorption cooler. The application field of this type of sorption cooling in space missions is currently being expanded by examining the performance of alternative working fluids, suitable for different cooling temperatures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)274-279
    Number of pages6
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • Sorption coolers
    • Space cryogenics
    • 2023 OA procedure


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