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''Plasma Crystal''

News 2007

December 2007


International PK-3 Plus symposium at MPE

The MPE Theory/Complex Plasma Group concludes another successful year of research with a symposium with international contributions concerning PK-3 Plus, MPE's plasma laboratory onboard the International Space Station ISS, and continues the series of anual symposia started with the first plasma lab PKE-Nefedov on the ISS.

Scientist, mainly from Russia and Garching, and Russian ISS cosmonauts present results and experiences from PK-3 Plus. As always, the video report of the cosmonauts who performed PK-3 Plus experiments in Earth orbit (Picture to the right: Pavel Vinogradov, Commander of the ext'Expedition 13' Crew, at his presentation.) are highly appreciated.

MPE and JIHT-RAS (the institute formerly known as IHED, Moscow) staff members give insights to the latest results from PK-3 Plus in space and from ground-based laboratories with totally new analysis methods. Open discussions lead to further experiments. A final outlook shows design possibilities for the next-generation complex plasma facilities in micro-gravity, e.g. 'Plasma-Lab'.

Download the latest Agenda (PDF).

November 2007

PK-3 Plus and PK-4 experiments in micro-gravity

In November, both experiments of MPE dedicated to 'complex plasmas in micro-gravity' produce new and unique data for the scientists. In Moscow staff members of MPE and IHED supervise a new experiment session with PK-3 Plus that is onboard the International Space Station ISS since December 2005. From the space control center in Korolev they are in contact with the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko who will operate PK-3 Plus in Earth orbit. The achieved video data are stored on harddiscs, are brought back to Earth with the next crew exchange, and then are analysed by MPE and IHED scientists.

Meanwhile, on Earth another experiment experiences the conditions of weightlessness. PK-4 takes part in the 11th DLR parabolic flight campaign, funded by the German Aerospace Research Center. A team of nine MPE and IHED staff members stay in Bordeaux, France, the home base of the Airbus A300 'ZERO-G' (pictures on the left), and performs the experiments on three consecutive days. Each flight day provides 31 parabolic flight manoevers with 20 seconds of weightlessness each. The experiments are to test the PK-4 apparatus on one side, on the other to deal with scientific questions. We investigate the self-organisation effects of a complex plasma when two particle clouds penetrate each other; the behavior inside a nozzle is observed; and new means of manipulation (e.g. thermal) of the particle flows are tested. Also non-spherical particles ('rods') are used in an experiment of our colleagues from IHED, Moscow.

PK-4 uses a DC discharge inside a glass tube to generate the plasma and is intended to investigate complex plasmas mainly in the fluid state. The project is now at the phase C/D and is planned to be launched to the ISS in 2009 or 2010 to continue the success of MPE's plasma facilities PKE-Nefedov and PK-3 Plus.

July 2007

Morfill Medal
Pictures of the award ceremony:
Morfill Morfill Morfill
Courtesy of DLR, M.K.

Prof. Gregor Morfill awarded with the Tsiolkovsky Medal

Ziolkowsi Prof. Gregor Morfill, Director at MPE and head of the Theory/Complex Plasma Group (image on the far left), receives the highest award of the Russian Space Agency, the Tsiolkovsky Medal. The medal is handed over by a Russian delegation during a ceremony held at the German Space Agency (DLR) in Bonn-Oberkassel. Head of the Russian space delegation is Prof. Vladimir Fortov, former Russian secretary of science, member of the Russian Acadamy of Science and director of the Institute for High Energy Densities (IHED) in Moscow. Host and speaker is Dr. Ludwig Baumgarten, member of the executive board of DLR. Also present at the ceremony are: Sergey Krikalev (Russian cosmonaut), Thomas Reiter (German astronaut), Oleg Petrov and Vladimir Molotkow (IHED), Hubertus Thomas (MPE), Maria Roth (DLR), the Russian consul in Bonn and numerous members of DLR, MPE and ESA.

The Tsiolkovsky Medal (image on the left side) is given to ''personnel of the Russian space industry who made a significant contribution and active participation in fundamental research in the field of entering and utilizing space; also to foreign persons with a significant contribution to space research.'' [1] Former recipients of the medal are: extYuri Gagarin (first man in space), extJohn Glenn (first American to orbit the Earth), extSergey Korolyov (Chief designer of the Soviet space program), extCarl Sagan (American astronomer (Pioneer, Voyager and Viking space missions) and award-winning writer ('Contact', 'Cosmos')), Todd B. Hawley (co-founder of the extInternational Space University), Peter Diamandis (CEO of the extX Prize Foundation), and more.

The medal is named after extKonstantin E. Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), the Russian rocket scientist and space pioneer (image on the right side). Tsiolkovsky was the first to derive the fundamental theory of space flight and to propose that liquid fuel and a multi-stage concept is necessary to leave the Earth (''The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices'', 1903). Decades later, German Hermann Oberth (and his student Wernher von Braun) and American Robert Goddard continued on Tsiolkovsky's work to pave the actual way of humans into space. A large crater on the far side of the moon is named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. A known quotation of him is: ,,Surely, the Earth is the cradle of mankind, but no one can stay in cradle forever''.

[1] (Russian)

See also: extDLR News (German)

June 2007


Next PK-3 Plus Mission onboard the ISS

End of June MPE's PK-3 Plus Experiment will be conducted onboard the International Space Station by the cosmonauts of the Expedition 15 crew one more time. This is the 6th mission for PK-3 Plus and the 19th since PKE-Nefedov, the first plasma crystal experiment onboard the ISS.

The emphasis of this experiment session is on string fluids, where the microparticles inside the liquid phase of a complex plasma align in chains which changes the behavior of the liquid drastically. This is a model for so-called 'electro-rheological liquids' which increase their viscosity by several orders of magnitude when an elecrical voltage is applied. Imagine the possibilities! PK-3 Plus allows to study such a fluid on the kinetic level which means on the level of individual particles and their dynamics.

Staff members of MPE are in the space control center in Moscow to supervise the conduction of the experiments in direct contact with the cosmonauts in orbit.

More about the Plasma Crystal Experiment: Press information (PDF) (German only)

May 2007

Alfven Lecture

Prof. Morfill to give Alfvén Lecture

On May 15th Prof. Gregor Morfill, director at the MPE and head of the theory/complex plasma group of the institute, has the honour to give the Alfvén Lecture at the Royal Technical Institute (extKTH) in Stockholm. (See announcement.)
The lecture is intended for students, scientists and the interested public. On the following day there is an informal seminar for scientists of the Alfvén Lab. The laboratory is made of three related and co-located units within the School: Fusion Plasma Physics, Space and Plasma Physics and the Alfvén Laboratory Centre for Space and Fusion Plasma Physics.

Prof. Morfill joins a series of reputable predecessors: Astronaut Prof. Franklin Chang-Díaz (2004) and Prof. Osamu Motojima, Nagoya, Japan, (2002).

extEvent kalendar, extAnnouncement of the School of Electrical Engineering,

April 2007

Thomas Reiter, MPE

Thomas Reiter visits the MPE

The German astronaut Thomas Reiter visits the MPE on April 24th to exchange experience with the scientists of the institute's complex plasma group. Reiter (49) - with 350 days in space (on Mir and ISS) the most experienced european astronaut - performed the Plasmakristall-Experiment of the MPE twice during his stay on the International Space Station. (See Latest News 2006.)

Thomas Reiter first gave a review of his long-term stay on the ISS and afterwards visited the institute's labs where he got a deeper insight in the experiments of the complex plasma group. Scientists of the group used the visit to get informed about his stay in space and especially about the performance of the plasma crystal experiment. Furthermore, Thomas Reiter gave some valuable hints for the experiments of the MPE planned in future onboard the International Space Station.

The left image shows Max Planck Director Prof. Gregor Morfill and Thomas Reiter during a coffee break. More images:
(Description see mouse pointer. Click to enlarge. All images: © MPE/Michael Kretschmer.)
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News 2006, 2005

Updated: 2008-01-05   RS
Contact: Michael Kretschmer mail
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