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Center Innovation Fund: LaRC CIF

Plasma SansEC Cosmic Radiation Shielding for Spacecraft

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Plasma SansEC Cosmic Radiation Shielding for Spacecraft

A dielectric barrier discharge SansEC sensor will be demonstrated and characterized. The highly conductive plasma which constitutes an operational SansEC trace will provide a highly resonant state amplifying the Lorentz force characteristics.

A novel electromagnetic concept making use of Lorentz force is proposed for the shielding of spacecraft in space radiation environments. The method is based on the ability of open circuit spiral geometry to self-generate an electromagnetic field when excited at its resonant frequency (RF). This phenomenon was discovered in previous aeronautics research to develop a multi-functional smart skin for composite aircraft to provide lightning strike protection, RF shielding and damage detection and diagnosis using a SansEC sensor array applique.  The Lorentz force on a resonate SansEC sensor has been shown to influence lighting attachment and may provide a new method for cosmic radiation shielding. We believe these light-weight ultrathin foil impedance structures can be 

engineered into surfaces to accomplish the mitigation of cosmic ray particles based on Lorentz force.

Suppose at a point X, a cosmic particle of mass m, carrying charge  is moving at velocity  toward a spacecraft’s SansEC sensor surface, the Lorentz force on the particle can be expressed in the following equation: (in SI unit system)

Under the influence of the Lorentz force law, the particle will change its direction following a superposition path of a circle, which is the effect of magnetic field, and the gradient direction of the electric field.  Depending on the nature of the charge (positive or negative) the cosmic particle carries, it will be deflected (left or right) as referenced to its original path. 

A dielectric barrier discharge SansEC sensor is proposed as a means to generate a highly conductive plasma which constitutes an operational SansEC trace and should allow a highly resonant state amplifying the Lorentz force characteristics.

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