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''Plasma Crystal''

News (2011)

December 2011

xmas card
(Image courtesy of Uwe Konopka)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The ''big Christmas tree ball'' is our PlasmaLab chamber, developed by Uwe Konopka
and built by our MPE workshop. Thank you all very much.

October 2011

Ringberg Castle above Lake Tegernsee,
a meeting place of the Max Planck Soc.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov with
PK-3 Plus aboard the space station ISS
(Photos: MK)

Cosmonaut Castle: PK symposium at Ringberg

The annual Plasma-Kristall symposium of the the MPE theory group with this year's subtitle ''10 years of complex plasmas on the ISS'' was held at Ext. linkRingberg Castle high above lake Tegernsee in the Bavarian Alps. MPE staff members, colleagues from Moscow, and representants of the companies Kayser-Threde (Munich) and Roskosmos (Moscow) climbed to the meeting center of the Max Planck Society south of Munich. Invited guests were also the Russian cosmonauts Ext. linkYuri Baturin, Ext. linkOleg Kotov and Ext. linkAlexander Skvortsov. They all operated our Plasma-Kristall experiment facility PK-3 Plus aboard the International Space Station ISS.

Three days in the castle's large meeting room were dedicated to the exchange of experiences, results and news concerning the Plasma-Kristall experiment. Alexander Skvortsov (image left side) reported on his long-term stay onboard the orbital complex and gave an impression of his artistic images of planet Earth from space. A 'Bavarian evening' completed the meeting and enhanced the contact between Russian and German colleagues.

Download the symposium's agenda: PDF

Enlarge: group photo 1, group photo 2.

September 2011

Zyflex Dodec

Airbus A300 ZERO-G (Photo ©MK)

Zero-G Zero-G
Zero-G Zero-G
MPE parabolic flight crews in Bordeaux
and visitors lining up to see the ZERO-G
during the aerospace day in Cologne.
(Photos: AL, MK, UK. Click to enlarge.)

MPE PlasmaLab on board the Airbus A300 ZERO-G

The MPE project 'PlasmaLab' was elected to take part in a parabolic flight campaign conducted by the German Aerospace Center DLR for the second time. Three days were available for micro-gravity research in Bordeaux and two days in Cologne where the Airbus A300 ZERO-G - together with our PlasmaLab setup - was on display during the aerospace day at the Köln-Bonn airport. Six MPE staff members and one colleague from our partner institute JIHT in Moscow took part in the campaign and made plasma experiments in weightlessness.

Two plasma chambers and a new radio-frequency generator have been on board: The Zyflex chamber ist eine cylindrical plasma chamber with flexible geometry where the distance of the electrodes can be changed during operation. Also the electrodes can be changed very easily, for example plate and mesh electrodes. This offers a wide range of experiments in a large parameter space.

chamber Also inside the PlasmaLab setup was the Dode­cahedron, a chamber with a totally new design. Twelve electrodes in a soccer ball-like structure form a spherical system to create an isotropic plasma. This chamber was built into the parabolic flight rack but could not be fully operated yet. But the new RF generator designed for that chamber could be tested sucessfully with the Zyflex chamber.

In the near future PlasmaLab is to continue the successful story of MPE's plasma chamber facilities aboard the ISS: PKE-Nefedov, PK-3 Plus and PK-4. The development of PlasmaLab is supported by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

More on this campaign in the German media:

July 2011

James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Gregor Morfill

Morfill Every year the American Physical Society (APS) awards outstanding contributions to the field of plasma physics with a prize. In 2011 this prize was given for the first time to a German physicist and for the first time to the field of complex plasmas. The recipient is Prof. Gregor Morfill, Max Planck Director and head of the 'Theory/Complex Plasmas' group of MPE.

The APS honors the outstanding work of Prof. Morfill in the field of dusty and complex plasmas: The discovery of plasma crystals, his work on the structure of Saturn's rings, and the ongoing research of complex plasmas on board the International Space Station ISS which condensed into 500+ publications in scientific journals. Morfill dedicates himself to theoretical astrophysics, as well as to a totally new application of plasma physics: Plasma Health Care.

The prize is given since 1975 by the APS in honor of the scottish physicist Ext. linkJames Clerk Maxwell (1831 - 1879) who found the funda­mental equations to describe electro-magnetic waves. The prize consists of a certificate and a prize money. It is presented during an APS meeting in November in the US where the recipient is invited to.

See also: Ext. linkAPS website


May 2011


MPE theory group to host ICPDP6 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The sixth International Conference on Physics of Dusty (complex) Plasmas was organized this time by the theory group of MPE who was involved in the discovery of crystaline structures in such plasmas in 1994. More than 200 plasma physicists from all over the world found their way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Bavaria, Germany) to present their latest results on the foot of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze (2962m). 50 oral and more than 200 poster presentations in 3 sessions drew the participant's attention, probably not only due to the free beer.

Two more social events offered the opportunity to improve contacts to the international colleagues: An excursion to the Ettal monastery and to Linderhof Castle, one of King Ludwig II.'s famous buildings situated nearby Germisch. A 'Bavarian evening' took place during the conference dinner, offering local food and music. Physicists could be seen dancing until the early morning!

The next ICPDP will be held in 2014 in Delhi, India. Previous conference sites were Orléans (France, 2005) and Ponta Delgada (Azores, 2008).

More Informationen: Agenda, list of talks (pdf), liste of posters (pdf), website, photos.

Group photo (Courtesy of A. Semenov. Click to enlarge)

March 2011

Diss. Schwabe
''Dynamical effects in fluid complex
plasmas'', Dissertation of
Dr. Mierk Schwabe (Munich 2009)

Dissertation on complex plasmas awarded with EPS prize

Dr. Mierk Schwabe who did her PhD thesis in the Theory/Complex Plasma group of MPE has been given a special honor. Her dissertation titled ''Dynamical effects in fluid complex plasmas'' has been awarded with the PhD prize of the Plasma Physics Section of the European Physical Society (EPS). This prize honors outstanding achievements in plasma physics of young researchers during their PhD work.

The prize will be presented during the annual convention of the Plasma Physics Section. It includes a prize money, a three-year free membership in the EPS and the opportunity to present the work at the convention to take place in the city of Strasbourg in France this year.

Dr. Schwabe studied complex plasmas in her PhD work. These are ionized gases containing micron-sized spherical particles. She investigated effects that can be also observed in normal liquids, e.g. the propagation of waves and the formation of droplets and bubbles. There she could show that also a small amount of particles (~thousands) behaves like a liquid which scales to a few nanometers in a regular liquid like water. This is an important step towards the understanding of the behavior of nanofluids.

More: Ext. linkDownload dissertation

February 2011

Cosmonaut Sergey Krikalev with the
plasma crystal experiment PKE-Nefedov
onboard the space station ISS (March 2001)

Nefedov logo
10 years of complex plasma research
onboard the ISS

10 years plasma crystals in space

This is the year 2001. On February 28 the Russian cargo spacecraft M-44 docks with the International Space Station at this time made up by the Russian core modules Zarya and Zwesda and the American Unity module. The first permanent crew Ext. link''Expedition 1'' consisting of William Sheperd, Sergey Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. With Progress M-44 the first plasma crystal experiment facility developped by MPE and Ext. linkIHED, named ''PKE-Nefedov'', comes to the orbial station. On March 3 the device is unpacked from the Progress and operated for the first time. (See picture, left) – the beginning of the successful story of complex plasma research in space.

Complex plasmas are made of micron-sized plastic spheres inside a low-temperature plasma (produced by an electrical high frequency discharge in Argon gas at low pressure) that are electrically charged and thus interact with each other. Under certain conditions the particles arrange in a regular way forming a plasma crystal. On Earth this process is disturbed by gravity, but in weightlessness large crystals can be grown. This is why plasma crystal experiments are performed preferably in space.

In the past 10 years plasma crystal experiments of MPE and IHED (now: JIHT) were performed successfully onboard the ISS, first with ''PKE-Nefedov'' (2001-2005), then with ''PK-3 Plus'' (since 2006) in totally 27 missions on 85 days (with 90 minutes experiment time each) by 23 cosmonauts. This makes the plasma crystal facilities to the mostly used scientific experiments onboard the ISS. The results were published in numerous articles in refereed scientific journals.

Watch this video: Arrival of PKE-Nefedov on the ISS (2001).

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Updated: 2012-01-30
Contact: Michael Kretschmer mail
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