Monday, October 12, 2015

Scientist Duplicates Airless Space Weathering in Lab Environment

This plasma source ion implantation (PSII) chamber was used in Kuhlman’s research. It is 1 meter in diameter. The samples were placed on a silicon wafer on a stage in the center of the chamber and implanted with hydrogen atoms. Credit: PSI

Using laboratory instruments typically used to make semiconductor devices, space weathering of airless bodies in the Solar System has been simulated, allowing researchers to better determine the ages of their surfaces. “’Space weathering’ is a catch-all term for what happens to surfaces exposed to the environment of space over time. This includes the micrometeorite impact damage and redeposition, effects of UV radiation, and the effects of implantation of solar wind particles,” said Planetary Science Institute's (PSI) Kimberly R. Kuhlman, lead author of “Simulation of solar wind space weathering in orthopyroxene” that appeared in Planetary and Space Science.

“More space weathered surfaces become redder and darker from the formation of nano-scale particles of iron,” she added.

Bodies in the Solar System that exhibit space weathering include the Moon, Mercury and asteroids.

Kuhlman shot hydrogen atoms at solar wind speeds into tiny, polished samples of the common Solar System mineral orthopyroxene that had been placed on top of a silicon wafer. She then examined the compositional changes in the outer 20 nanometers of the implanted orthopyroxene using a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM), and for the first time discovered the particles of iron beginning to form. 

The plasma source ion implantation (PSII) chamber was used in Kuhlman’s research. It is 1 meter in diameter. The samples were placed on a silicon wafer on a stage in the center of the chamber and implanted with hydrogen atoms.

PSI is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to Solar System exploration. It is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, where it was founded in 1972.

Credit: psi.edu

No comments:

Post a Comment