The ALMA research project in the Atacama desert: a revolutionary climate system

Air conditioning solution for astronomical research

Research Project Alma

In the Chilean Atacama Desert, more than 60 telescopes at an altitude of 5,100 metres are making a decisive contribution to the ALMA astronomical project. These radio antennas receive millimetre and submillimetre waves and together form a huge telescope that makes previously unexplored areas of the universe visible.

Extreme adaptability

The climate control system can cope with both the high temperatures in direct sunlight and the icy conditions in the shade.

Precise temperature control

One of the main tasks of the system is to maintain a constant temperature of between 16 °C and 22 °C inside the receiver cabin all year round.

Innovative system components

The air conditioning system consists of several specialised components, such as a chiller with the option of free cooling, a glycol distribution system, internal recirculation air treatment units and specially adapted fans.


Temperature control in harsh environments

The challenge

The Chajnantor plateau, where the telescopes are located, is known for its extreme weather conditions. The temperature fluctuates drastically between 30 °C to 40 °C in direct sunlight and sub-zero temperatures in the shade. To ensure precise measurements, a special climate system must protect the sensitive technology from these fluctuations.

High technology in the Atacama Desert

Extreme conditions

The Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest and highest regions in the world, offers ideal conditions for astronomical observations. However, the extreme temperature fluctuations require a specialised climate system for the ALMA telescopes in order to enable precise space observations.

The ALMA climate system project represents an outstanding and challenging task that could only be accomplished through the close cooperation of all those involved.

Innovative air climate control solutions from Menerga

Menerga solution

Menerga was commissioned by Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH to develop a customised air conditioning system. The aim was to maintain a constant temperature of between 16 °C and 22 °C in the receiver cabin all year round. The system developed consists of four main components:

A chiller for the outside air with an option for free cooling

A glycol distribution system that connects the chiller to the internal ventilation units

Two internal air handling units to regulate the measuring and recording instruments and the receiver

Fans to optimise air distribution in hard-to-reach areas of the receiver cabin

This project sets new standards in the adaptation of climate systems to extreme environmental conditions and opens up new horizons in astronomical research.