TITLE

A 2 MV Van de Graaff accelerator as a tool for planetary and impact physics research

AUTHOR(S)
Mocker, Anna; Bugiel, Sebastian; Auer, Siegfried; Baust, Günter; Colette, Andrew; Drake, Keith; Fiege, Katherina; Grün, Eberhard; Heckmann, Frieder; Helfert, Stefan; Hillier, Jonathan; Kempf, Sascha; Matt, Günter; Mellert, Tobias; Munsat, Tobin; Otto, Katharina; Postberg, Frank; Röser, Hans-Peter; Shu, Anthony; Sternovsky, Zoltán
PUB. DATE
September 2011
SOURCE
Review of Scientific Instruments;Sep2011, Vol. 82 Issue 9, p095111
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Investigating the dynamical and physical properties of cosmic dust can reveal a great deal of information about both the dust and its many sources. Over recent years, several spacecraft (e.g., Cassini, Stardust, Galileo, and Ulysses) have successfully characterised interstellar, interplanetary, and circumplanetary dust using a variety of techniques, including in situ analyses and sample return. Charge, mass, and velocity measurements of the dust are performed either directly (induced charge signals) or indirectly (mass and velocity from impact ionisation signals or crater morphology) and constrain the dynamical parameters of the dust grains. Dust compositional information may be obtained via either time-of-flight mass spectrometry of the impact plasma or direct sample return. The accurate and reliable interpretation of collected spacecraft data requires a comprehensive programme of terrestrial instrument calibration. This process involves accelerating suitable solar system analogue dust particles to hypervelocity speeds in the laboratory, an activity performed at the Max Planck Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg, Germany. Here, a 2 MV Van de Graaff accelerator electrostatically accelerates charged micron and submicron-sized dust particles to speeds up to 80 km s-1. Recent advances in dust production and processing have allowed solar system analogue dust particles (silicates and other minerals) to be coated with a thin conductive shell, enabling them to be charged and accelerated. Refinements and upgrades to the beam line instrumentation and electronics now allow for the reliable selection of particles at velocities of 1-80 km s-1 and with diameters of between 0.05 μm and 5 μm. This ability to select particles for subsequent impact studies based on their charges, masses, or velocities is provided by a particle selection unit (PSU). The PSU contains a field programmable gate array, capable of monitoring in real time the particles' speeds and charges, and is controlled remotely by a custom, platform independent, software package. The new control instrumentation and electronics, together with the wide range of accelerable particle types, allow the controlled investigation of hypervelocity impact phenomena across a hitherto unobtainable range of impact parameters.
ACCESSION #
66185164

 

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