MIT Astrophysics Colloquium 09/26/2023 — Evdokiya Kostadinova: Laboratory Space Research

Tuesday September 26, 2023 4:00 pm

Title: Laboratory Space Research – How to Use a Tokamak to Study Heat Shields, Energetic Particles, and Origins of Life 

Abstract: In this presentation, we will explore how laboratory magnetized plasma can help us uncover key questions of space physics and space exploration, including spacecraft heat shield performance, energetic electron transport during geomagnetic storms, and origins of life on Earth. In each case, experiments were conducted in hot magnetized plasma at the DIII-D tokamak. First, we will show how the heating conditions in the tokamak edge plasma are similar to those experienced by the Galileo probe during its entry into Jupiter’s atmosphere. By exposing carbon-based materials to this plasma environment, we could benchmark models predicting how the spacecraft heat shield will perform during such an entry. Next, we will show how the tokamak magnetic field topology can be manipulated to trap, accelerate, and release high-energy electrons through structures called magnetic islands (Fig.1). It is expected that the interaction of energetic electrons and magnetic islands in the Earth’s magnetosphere is a major factor causing geomagnetic storms during solar flares. Finally, we will show the initial results from experiments where carbon and silica materials are exposed to the tokamak plasma with hydrogen, nitrogen, and methane gas puffs. The goal of this experiment is to test the hypothesis that complex inorganics and organics could have been formed in the plasma tails of meteoroids entering the Early Earth’s atmosphere, thus providing clues on the origins of life.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, using the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, a DOE Office of Science user facility, under Awards DE-FC02-04ER54698, DE-SC0023476, DE-SC0023367, DE-SC0023061, DE-FG02-05ER54809.

Host: Anna Frebel

via Zoom


  • Evdokiya Kostadinova, Auburn University

Event Contact

Nayanika Yellepeddi