The Light Gas Gun
well as large impacts, any surface that is exposed to space will be
hit by much smaller dust-like particels that are found in space. The
LGG is ideal for studying such impacts. We can also study how the materials
used in constructing satellites behave when they are struck at high
speed by these microscopic bodies. Solar cell materials, carbon fibre
composites, and aluminium have all been studied extensively. This flux
of small particles is also of interest from a scientific viewpoint,
for which we have built several experiments that have flown on spacecraft
to measure the dust population around the Earth. These experiments (such
as those on LDEF,
There is also a large amount of interest in the capture and analysis of these small particles. These bodies may be micro-meteoroids, specks of space-debris, or even dust kicked off from active comets. Normally in hypervelocity impacts such particles vaporise on impact. However, it is possible to capture them relatively intact if the target is a very low density material such as aerogel. The low density, around 0.1 gm cm-3, of aerogel (click here to see some aerogel) means that bodies are gradually slowed down when they hit, rather than being explosively destroyed upon impact. If the collision is sufficently 'gentle' then most of the original particle can be trapped, returned to Earth, and then analysed in a laboratory. In this picture a 50 mm body has been captured by an aerogel target, the track of the body is clearly shown by the disrupted material in its wake.
Enquiries about using the LGG in collaborative work are warmly welcomed. Please contact Mark Burchell by email, or by telephone (01227 763248).
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