From Molecules to Satellites: A Physical Chemistry Approach to Next- Generation Spacecraft Technology

March 7, 2014

Jamie Stearns

The Air Force Research Lab exists to lead the discovery, development, and integration of war fighting technologies in air, space, and cyberspace. To a chemist in the Space Vehicles Directorate, this means developing cheaper and safer satellite propulsion, more efficient power sources, better spacecraft thermal control, and more accurate models of thruster plumes. Solving each of these challenges begins with a fundamental understanding of molecular-level interactions, including optical proper ties, molecular structure, and chemical reactivity. Our lab uses laser spectroscopy techniques to make benchmark measurements of the molecules,ions, and clusters critical to further development of each of these technologies. This talk will give an
overview of our work in four main areas: 1)Spectroscopy, structure, and reactivity of ionic liquid cluster s for hypergolic combustion and electric propulsion; 2) Spectroscopy and structure of ionic liquid-silver ion clusters for reversible mirror plating; 3) Vacuum-ultraviolet photodissociation of small
molecules for modeling solar photon-thruster plume interactions; 4) Spectroscopy and characterization of nanoparticles for plasma generation