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Scientists Successfully Reproduce Dangerous Space Radiation Inside a Lab

May 10, 2017 09:26 AM EDT
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Space Radiation Reproduced
Laser plasma-based accelerator, used to mimic the types of space radiation which present a threat to astronauts and space technology -- allowing realistic testing on earth
(Photo : University of Strathclyde)

A team of scientists led by the University of Strathclyde has successfully developed a new device capable of reproducing dangerous space radiation in a laboratory setting.

The new device, described in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, can realistically mimic space radiation and can greatly help in making space exploration safer, more extensive and more reliable.

"Space radiation is a danger to satellite electronics as well as manned space travel. Earth's magnetic core shields us from dangerous particles but space has no such protection," said Professor Bernhard Hidding from the University of Strathclyde's Department of Physics, in a press release.

Conventional radiation sources produce radiation with rather unnatural energy distribution. Due to this, scientists were having a hard time replicating space radiation in laboratory conditions. To overcome this, researchers of the new study develop a new device using the novel laser-plasma based accelerators.

With the laser-plasma based accelerators, the researchers were able to produce particle flux that closely resembled the conditions of radiation in space. The researchers noted that the laser-plasma-based accelerators have the ability to directly produce broadband Maxwellian-type particle flux, akin to conditions in space.

Funded by the European Space Agency, exploratory proof-of-concept experiments were conducted Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf and at the UK's Central Laser Facility. The radiation tests were carried out at the Central Laser Facility. The study was also made possible thanks to the participation of the University of Hamburg, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, the University of California Los Angeles, the ESA and Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf.

Further development of the new device is to be carried out at the Strathclyde-based Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-Based Accelerators (SCAPA) with the collaboration of the National Physical Laboratory and the Central Laser Facility.

The ability of the new device to mimic space radiation could greatly help in understanding the dangers of radiation to satellite electronics and manned space travel. With the help of the laser-plasma based accelerators, scientists could now test radiation hardness of space electronics in their laboratories.

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