July 26, 2019
In the World

Experimenting on the International Space Station

Wittenberg Physicist Helps Test Theory as Part of 12-Member Team

Jeremiah Williams, associate professor of physics at Wittenberg, joined colleagues at the Toulouse Space Centre in France to conduct an experiment July 26 on the International Space Station (ISS).

Williams is currently part of a team examining how the thermal properties of dust particles in a plasma environment evolve as the plasma parameters change in the Plasma Kristall-4 (PK-4) dusty plasma laboratory. The 12-member team of scientists has been working on this experiment in collaboration with the German Center for Air and Space (DLR), the European Space Agency, and the Russian Space Agency or ROSCOSMOS. Williams and his collaborators have been working the core science team at DLR to develop the experiment. They are currently at the CADMOS laboratory at the Toulouse Space Centre in Toulouse, France.

“This work grows out of a long-running collaboration that I have had with colleagues at Auburn University and DLR and is being funded through a grant from NASA,” said Williams, who also chairs the department of physics at Wittenberg. “Our primary effort involves looking at the redistribution of energy as dust particles are injected into the experiment and suddenly stopped in the experimental region of the PK-4 instrument. Several Wittenberg students have been involved in analyzing data that has come out of this collaboration, and some of that data was used to plan and develop the experiment that we performed on ISS.”

According to an article by Phys.org, the PK-4 experiment is recreating atomic interactions in a fluid on a larger scale on the ISS. On Earth, these particles are influenced by gravity. However, in space the particles should behave similarly to charged atoms in a fluid crystal structure to allow researchers to better understand hidden interactions of our world.

Experiments in the facility were done to study transport properties, thermodynamics, kinetics and statistical physics, and non-linear waves and instabilities in the plasmas.

Williams’ research interest involves studying plasmas, the fourth naturally-occurring state of matter that makes up most of the visible universe, that contain small bits of particulate matter (dust). Plasmas are found in or used in the manufacturing of hundreds of everyday products, including tools, clothing and electronic devices.  Plasmas are also used in water treatment and sterilization procedures used in the medical fields. Williams’ research is focused on understanding the particle transport, wave properties, and thermal properties of the microparticle component of a dusty plasma.

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Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
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About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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