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A parabolic flight to test an innovative heat transport device

The DEPLOY! project, developed by a team of students from the universities of Pisa, Parma, and Brighton, has been selected by the European Space Agency

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This coming November, an innovative technological device developed by the Department of Energy, Systems, Land and Construction Engineering (DESTEC) of the University of Pisa will be tested by six students from the universities of Pisa, Parma, and Brighton on a parabolic flight operated by the company Novespace in Bordeaux, France. Called DEPLOY!, it is an international scientific and technological research project selected by ESA - the European Space Agency - as part of the PETRI Programme. The DEPLOY! Project is the latest in a long list of winners from the universities involved, such as Phos, U-Phos, and Hympact from the University of Pisa and PHP3 from Brighton.


The subject of the research is a brand-new heat transport device called a Deployable Pulsating Heat Pipe (PHP). The "flexible" PHP is intended primarily for space applications and needs to be tested in microgravity. Its applications can be variable; for example, it can be used to automatically fold radiators to reduce the risk of collisions with debris. PHPs are a highly promising solution for both space and terrestrial applications, and their flexibility is the next evolutionary step needed for their advancement.

The four students from the University of Pisa: Silvia Picchi (Energy Engineering), Vittorio Rosellini (Robotics Engineering), Nicola Ricci (Energy Engineering), Alessandro Billi (Aerospace Engineering).

"At Bordeaux airport, our experiment will board a Novespace Airbus A310 Zero G Boeing which, after climbing to an altitude of 7,500 meters, will go into free fall for about 20 seconds, during which weightlessness will be experienced; this will happen 30 times in each of the three planned flights," explains Alessandro Billi, project team leader. "It is at that moment that our experiment can be most effectively tested. The most exciting aspect is that we, the team, will be on board the plane to conduct the test and ensure that the instruments used work smoothly. This is a unique opportunity for us to enhance research in the field of PHPs and to experience personally, at least for a little while, what only astronauts on the space station can feel."

Erin Saltmarsh from the University of Brighton.

"The creativity of our students, the skills acquired in their courses of study, and their ability to work as part of a team trigger energies and a contagious enthusiasm that regenerate the entire university community," comments Professor Enza Pellecchia, Pro-Rector for the cohesion of the university community and the right to study, who met with the DEPLOY! team members, along with Professors Corrado Priami and Alessio Cavicchi, university delegates for the enhancement and promotion of research and for new entrepreneurial initiatives, to congratulate them. "I sense an atmosphere of growth and the blossoming of talents; I feel that we are moving in the direction indicated by the Rector in his inauguration speech for the academic year."

michele parma termocamera

The DEPLOY! Project was designed with the aim of promoting multinational collaboration among students, giving them the opportunity to interact with colleagues from other universities and countries to compare their knowledge and strengthen their skills. The team consists of four students from the University of Pisa - team leader Alessandro Billi (Aerospace Engineering), Silvia Picchi (Energy Engineering), Vittorio Rossellini (Robotics Engineering), Nicola Ricci (Energy Engineering) - Erin Saltmarsh from the University of Brighton, and Michele Bocelli, a PhD student from the University of Parma (pictured on the right with the thermal camera). The Pisa team refers to the Department of Energy, Systems, Land, and Construction Engineering (DESTEC) and is coordinated by Professor Sauro Filippeschi.

All information about the project is available at

  • 13 March 2023

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