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Polar Programs

Power Box Equipment for Year Round Polar Programs

The Extreme-Cold Temperature Power Management Module for Year Round Use

PASSCAL's Polar Group specifically designed a power management module to control the charging and manage the power system in extreme-cold temperature environments. There are two main parts in the power box:  The solar charge controller and the power switcher.  The solar charge controller, as the name implies, takes care of the proper and efficient charging of the batteries when solar energy is available.  The power switcher takes care of switching from the rechargeable batteries to the primary batteries when the rechargeable batteries' voltage dips below a threshold, and switches from the primary batteries to the rechargeable batteries when the rechargeable batteries' voltage gets high enough from solar charging.  Both the charge controller and the power switcher were tested successfully for operation at -55C after having been subjected to -70C for several hours.

Polar Programs


PASSCAL currently supports approximately 60 experiments per year worldwide, with 5-10% currently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs (OPP). Polar projects commonly require a level of support that is several times that of seismic experiments in less demanding environments inclusive of very remote deployments (e.g. Tibet). In order to ensure OPP funded Antarctic projects the highest level of success, we have established a PASSCAL Polar Program and have secured funds from OPP to support new and ongoing experiments in Antarctica.

The primary focus of PASSCAL’s Polar support efforts are:

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Batteries for Year Round Polar Programs

Rechargeable batteries:

Rechargeable batteries are used for projects using solar and/or wind charging systems. PASSCAL's Polar Group has used SunXtender AGM batteries by Concord succesfully for many deployments. These batteries, aside from being reliable, offer several advantages. They are sealed and non-spillable, which makes then safer and easier to handle in the field; they have a low self discharge rate, which is important for a low power system, with extended periods of time between charges (arctic conditions); and they are exempt of DOT HazMat requirements (49 CFR Section 173.159) provided that they are shipped in their original package or in a package that satisfies the requirements of 49 CFR 173.159(d).

Station Enclosure for Year Round Polar Programs

Most electronic equipment and batteries used for seismic stations become unreliable at temperatures below -45C.  For this reason, it is very challenging to make year around seismic studies in the Arctic and especially the Antarctic, where winter temperature can dip below -80C. On the East Antarctica Plateau, ambient temperatures a couple of feet below the snow surface are between -50C and -60C.

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