Electron-neutral collisions induced by artificially produced VLF waves: Radiation belt remediation

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The interaction of particles and waves is a universal physical process that occurs in nature (e.g. wave-particle heating of the solar corona) as well as in the laboratory (e.g. wave-particle heating of plasmas within magnetic-confinement tokamaks). The development of high-powered radio-transmitters has meant that it is now possible to transmit very low frequency (VLF) signals along magnetic flux tubes with the aim of inducing such wave-particle interactions artificially in near-Earth space. This proposal outlines a method - known as radiation belt remediation - to decrease the number of energetic electrons in the radiation belts by artificially stimulating electron-neutral collisions using such VLF signals. The constantly changing flux of energetic electrons within the radiation belts is dangerous to orbiting hardware such as commercial communication satellites, and numerous scientific and military satellites which fly through the region. If successful, the research proposed would have significant practical applications as well as answering pressing physics problems. Success would provide a means to potentially protect spacecraft and instrumentation from: (a) the elevated particle fluxes that occur naturally (e.g. due to solar-driven variations and in situ particle acceleration, which are known to cause occasional satellite failure) or, (b) the exceptionally high fluxes that can occur due to human actions (e.g. high-altitude nuclear detonations massively increase particle fluxes and would certainly damage satellites traversing the radiation belts). It is estimated radiation-belt disruptions to USA government satellites alone cost in excess of $100 million per year (pre-2000) and that between 1994 and 1997 around $500 million worth of satellite insurance claims were a direct or indirect result of such disruptions. At present, expensive shielding is required to mitigate this effect, although no amount of shielding can provide 100% protection. With an ever-increasing societal reliance on space-based technology, it is clear that the potential for disruption and the related cost is huge. Such costs may be significantly reduced by better understanding the physical cause of such effects and by subsequent development of means to mitigate them.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description European Space Agency 
Organisation European Space Agency
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaboration with members of the European Space Agency Cluster satelllite mission.
Collaborator Contribution Publication of research results.
Impact Various publications in peer reviewed journals.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA) 
Organisation Los Alamos National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research Analysis - space physics
Collaborator Contribution Research Analysis
Impact Over 20 joint publications.
 
Description Space Science Institute (USA) 
Organisation Space Science Institute
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration on study of solar wind and magnetosphere
Collaborator Contribution Research analysis and publications
Impact Publication of research results
Start Year 2012
 
Description AGU Session Convenor 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Convened sessions at American Geophysical Union meetings (Fall Meeting, USA, 2011 and Spring Meeting, Brazil, 2010).

Research collaboration with Augsberg College, USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011
 
Description Conference/Workshop Speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Paper Presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact I have given formal oral/poster sessions at ~25 diffferent meetings in the past five years.

Formal collaborations and research projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
 
Description Confernce Organisation Committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Co-organiser of two international meetings in 2011.

European Space Agency, ESLAB meeting (Brugge, 2011)
ISROSES-II meeting (Bulgaria, 2011)


Collaboration and publication of research results
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description NASA/RBSP Launch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Paper Presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Invitation to speak at the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes Science Working Group (Florida, USA) - 2012. Also guest at the launch of the NASA/RBSP mission from Cape Kennedy, USA.

Current collaboration with NASA/RBSP personnel on various research projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description NSERC/CSA Grant Review Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Part of a panel reviewing proposals to NSERC and the Canadian Space Agency

Grants were awarded based on panel recommendations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2012
 
Description School Visit (Headlands) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Two groups of 30 pupils attended a talk on space science.

The school has agreed to host a scientific instrument (VLF radio receiver) to further outreach and collaboration between the PI and the school
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013