We are moving. After about Sept. 1, 2012, we will be at cips.colorado.edu.

Last update: April 16, 2012

A research group with members from the Center for Integrated Plasma Science (CIPS) and

the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado at Boulder
The webmaster is Scott Robertson.


CHAMPS successful rocket launches:

We launched two sounding rockets from the Andoya Rocket Range, Oct.11 and Oct. 13, 2011, and our particle mass spectrometer returned data on meteoric dust particles. The campaign was called CHAMPS: charge and mass of meteoric smoke particles.

A first look at the data was reported at the January URSI Radio Science meeting in Boulder.

Here is the talk at URSI given by Shannon Dickson: URSI_CHAMPS_Jan2012_1.pdf

Here is a talk that Scott Robertson gave at the Center for Integrated Plasma Studies on February 3:


Special Issue on the 12th Workshop on the Physics of Dusty Plasmas [May 2010]

The 12th Workshop on the Physics of Dusty Plasmas was held in Boulder, May 17-20, 2009. The Special Issue of the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science on Dusty Plasmas containing papers from this conference has now appeared.
The Table of Contents can be viewed at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/tocresult.jsp?isnumber=5444581

I. The MASS rocket campaign

This rocket campaign was conducted in August 2007 to find the size and altitude distribution of charged aerosol particles responsible for noctilucent clouds. Data analysis (mostly by Scott Knappmiller) is continuing through 2010. 

Special Issue on the ECOMA/MASS Rocket Campaign [May 2010]:

The results of our MASS rocket flights and the European ECOMA rocket flights has now appeared in a special issue of Annales Geophysicae published by the European Geophysical Union. The papers can be found at the journal by searching "ECOMA/MASS."

The preface can be viewed at: http://www.ann-geophys.net/prefaces/preface219.pdf

Special Issue papers, 2010:

1.      “Mass analysis of charged aerosol particles in NLC and PMSE during the ECOMA/MASS campaign,” S. Robertson, M. Horányi, S. Knappmiller, Z. Sternovsky, R. Holzworth, M. Shimogawa, M. Friedrich, K. Torkar, J. Gumbel, L. Megner, G. Baumgarten, R. Latteck, M. Rapp, U.-P. Hoppe and M. E. Hervig, Annales Geophysicae 27, 1213-1232, 2009.

2.      “Electric field measurements in a NLC/PMSE region during the MASS/ECOMA campaign,” M. Shimogawa and R. Holzworth, Annales Geophysicae 27, 1423-1430, 2009.

3.      “Signatures of Mesospheric Particles in Ionospheric Data,” M. Friedrich, K.M. Torkar, W. Singer, I. Strelnikova, M. Rapp, and S. Robertson, Annales Geophysicae 27, 823-829, 2009.

4.      “Large mesospheric ice particles at exceptionally high altitudes,” L. Megner, M. Khaplanov, G. Baumgarten, J. Gumbel, J. Stegman, B. Strelnikov and S. Robertson, Annales Geophysicae 27, 943-951, 2009.

5.      “First in situ measurement of the vertical distribution of ice volume in a mesospheric ice cloud during the ECOMA/MASS rocket-campaign,” M. Rapp, I. Strelnikova, B. Strelnikov, R. Latteck, G. Baumgarten, Q. Li, L. Megner, J. Gumbel, M. Friedrich, U.-P. Hoppe, and S. Robertson, Annales Geophysicae 27, 755–766, 2009.

Older stuff about the rocket campaign:

A. Zoltan's Quicktime movie of the first rocket launch: MASS_movie.MOV (August, '07)

B. Photo gallery from the rocket campaign: My trip to Norway.htm  (August, '07)

C. Power Point from Spring 2006 AGU saying what we are going to do: Manuscript_links\AGU_SA53A-04.pdf (May '07)

D. Power Point for the Fairbanks LPMR meeting showing that we have done it: Manuscript_links\LPMR_Fairbanks_4.pdf (Sept. '07)

E. Public talk on the preliminary results from the campaign: Manuscript_links\CIPS_TALK_5.pdf (Nov. '07)

F. Fall 2007 AGU poster on the MASS results: Manuscript_links\AGU_poster_2007_MASS_results.pdf (Dec. '07)

G. Public talk on MASS results (upleg of MASS#1) given at LASP, 28 February 2008: Manuscript_links\LASP_TALK.ppt (Feb. '08)

II. Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies

The Center is a node of the NASA Lunar Science Institute. CCLDAS was established April 2009 for four years. The Center will study the dusty plasma environment at the lunar surface. Activities include construction of a dust accelerator facility and several large vacuum chambers for study of dusty surfaces in a simulated space environment and for development of instruments for the lunar surface and for lunar orbiters.

The Center has its own set of web pages: http://lasp.colorado.edu/ccldas/

Dust on the moon - an overview of the lunar dust problem (by David Alexander, 1996): A trip to the Moon

III. Very cold plasma, through understanding particle and energy balance [undergraduate research projects]

This effort is aimed at understanding why laboratory plasmas have a temperature of order 1 eV. The electrons from electron-impact ionization have an energy spread of order 15 eV, so why is the plasma temperature often 1-2 eV? We have shown that this temperature (in hot-filament lab discharges) is a balance between evaporative cooling of electrons, the energy that the electrons have at birth, and the energy gained by the “thermal” electrons through collisions with suprathermal electrons (see the “earlier stuff” link below). It is important to divide the electrons into “hot” and “thermal” populations in order to get a meaningful result.

Earlier cold plasma stuff from 2005 and 2006: Particle and energy balance

Senior undergrad Ward Handley was able to reduce the electron temperature to room temperature [~300 K] by minimizing the population of suprathermal electrons. Electrons from the filaments transfer energy to the plasma electrons, but more slowly than the transfer of energy from secondary electrons originating at the wall. Recall that higher energy electrons have a lower collision frequency. The reference is: “A hot-filament discharge with very low electron temperature,” Ward Handley and Scott Robertson, Physics of Plasmas 16, 016702 (2009). 

Senior undergrad Shannon Dickson further reduced the temperature to ~200 K, which we think is a record low electron temperature for continuous plasma. This low temperature was created by (1) starting with Ward’s experiment having a low secondary emission from the wall, (2) cooling the wall of a liner with liquid nitrogen, and (3) using carbon monoxide as the working gas so the electrons are more quickly cooled by collisions with the cold gas. Note that CO has a dipole moment that increases the collision rate with electrons. The reference is “Continuous gas discharge plasma with 200 K electron temperature,” S. Dickson and S. Robertson, Physics of Plasmas 17, 033508 (2010).

V. Smoky Plasma: The mesosphere in the laboratory (started in Fall ’06): Smoky Plasma Experiment

VI. Langmuir probe research (updated May 2010)

Laframboise used a kinetic model to find the current to spherical and cylindrical probes. Scott R., while on a sabbatical leave, decided to write a computer code with Laframboise model in order to have the capability of reproducing Laframboise probe curves and for generating curves for conditions not covered in Laframboise papers. Here is the reference: “Reformulation of Laframboise' Probe Theory in Cylindrical Geometry and the Absence of an Ion Saturation Current,” Scott Robertson, IEEE Transaction on Plasma Science 38(4), p. 781-787, April 2010.

Here is what we did through 2007: Probe research

VII. Presheath, sheath, and ion mobility research (through 2006): Presheath & sheath research

VIII. The annular Penning Trap project (which ended in year 2000): The Annular Penning Trap Project

Very old web pages (mostly from 2002 and earlier):

The Dusty Plasma Group Research Activities
Rocket shots into the ionosphere
APS October 20 03 poster: Poster on the rocket-borne charged aerosol detector
Ion current to Langmuir probes is increased a lot by charge exchange collisions
Dust charging by plasmas, plasma sheaths, and UV
Orbiting dust particles in the lab
Lunar dust charging

Education: Learning plasma physics:

These exercises in the mathematical spreadsheet "Mathcad" show how to use numerical methods for many types of plasma physics problems.
Go to: plasma.colorado.edu/mathcad (this is an html document, but you need Mathcad to run the exercises)
Or, try this link: Physics 4150 Mathcad Exercises

Links to related sites
CIPS homepage (Center for Integrated Plasma Studies at CU)
LASP homepage (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU)
Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies: http://lasp.colorado.edu/ccldas/

Photo Gallery: The Dusty Plasma Group Investigators (updated January 2008)

E-mail directory (revised May, 2010), to each of these add @colorado.edu unless otherwise noted

Shannon Dickson, Shannon.dickson
Mihaly Horanyi, mihaly.horanyi
Scott Knappmiller, scott.knappmiller
Scott Robertson, scott.robertson
Zoltan Sternovsky, zoltan.sternovsky
Xu Wang, xu.wang

Phone directory:

Plasma physics laboratory: 303-492-5565 (for Scott R., Scott K., Xu, Shannon, and Devin)
For Tobin Munsat's area: 303-492-2010.
Carolyn James, Administrative Assistant: 303-492-8760
Plasma group FAX machine: 303-492-0642

Some of the departed:

Josh Colwell, josh.colwell AT physics.ucf.edu
Bob Walch, robert.walch AT unco.edu
Ward Handley is now at LASP.

Extraneous activities:

The summer 2006 lab hike to the top of St. Vrain peak (12,162 ft.) in Rocky Mountain National Park beginning at the Allenspark trailhead. From left to right: Maria Handley, Ward Handley, Scott Knappmiller, Scott Robertson and Tobin Munsat. The picture is by Zoltan Sternovsky. For a trail description go to: http://protrails.com/trail.php?trailID=117.