Feasibility of Superconducting Active Radiation Shielding During Extended Space Travel

Alisa Preiksaitis, “Feasibility of Superconducting Active Radiation Shielding During Extended Space Travel”
Mentor: Prasenjit Guptasarma, Physics

Radiation exposure remains one of the most challenging problems facing long-term, deep-space, human exploration missions. The hazards associated with long-term exposure to Galactic Cosmic Radiation threaten the feasibility of such missions. NASA has concluded that passive shielding cannot be the only mechanism for long duration, deep-space missions. One promising solution is the use of active radiation shielding (ARS) designs that divert harmful radiation away from crew. The most important advantage to using ARS designs is that they have the potential to reduce radiation exposure to acceptable levels using a significantly lower mass penalty. High temperature superconducting materials like YBaCuO and BiSrCaCuO enable the construction of powerful magnetic fields that are relatively lightweight, and can feasibly fit into conventional launch systems. Unfortunately, few such materials have ever been studied in a space radiation environment. Our experimental study involves High Temperature superconducting materials, which are complex oxides in which crystal structure and defect structure are critical to function and physical properties. We will study the effects of high energy heavy ion and proton radiation exposure using terrestrial particle accelerators at Brookhaven National Laboratory (NSRL), Argonne National Laboratory (ATLAS) and (possibly) the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and Chiba, Japan. Using preliminary information gained from such studies, we hope to send materials to the International Space Station for supplementary data. The information gathered will be published and will hopefully help mission designers assess superconductor suitability in the space radiation environment, potentially allowing for a novel ARS for extended human presence in deep-space.

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