Microgravity Complex Plasmas

Physics Objectives:

  • For laboratory complex (dusty) plasmas, the gravitational force plays a significant role in determining the properties of the system.
  • If gravity can be removed, the charged microparticles canfill the entire plasma volumemaking it possible to study the more subtle, inter-particles forces that affect a complex plasma.
  • And, new phenomena - collective effects, phase transitions, self-organization - can be studied.


  • AUPSL collaborates with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE, Germany) and the Institute for High Energy Density (IHED, Russia) on two microgravity projects: PK-4 (PlasmaKristall Experiment 4) and PLASMALAB.

  • In 2013, Prof. Konopka will begin developing a new laboratory at Auburn for testing the PLASMALAB vacuum chambers.

  • AUPSL is also adapting the PIV technology for use with high speed imaging (>100 frames per second) in order to perform measurements on these microgravity platforms.



Left: Ground-based dusty plasma, particles are compressed due to gravity
Right: Microgravity-based dusty plasma, particles fill the plasma volume

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