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Rockets and satellites orbiting in space are constantly bombarded by a host of high-energy particles, many of which can penetrate a spacecraft, causing its sensitive electronic components to malfunction. With the miniaturization of electronic circuits, such mishaps can endanger the entire craft. Experiments recently launched at the Weizmann Institute's Koffler Accelerator may help in the design of new ways to protect space vehicles against such damage.
Prof. Michael Hass of the Institute's Particle Physics Department, in collaboration with researchers from the Nahal Soreq Nuclear Research Center, is attempting to determine exactly how particles in space harm electronic equipment. Naturally, the ideal environment for looking into this matter is an orbiting laboratory aboard a spaceship, but such experiments are overly complicated and expensive.
Therefore, the scientists have designed an alternative approach: simulating outer-space conditions in Rehovot. For this purpose they use the Accelerator, a 56-meter-high tower, to generate fast-moving, high-energy beams of heavy ions. Thus they have succeeded in creating lab conditions that mimic those in outer space, where particles threaten our most ambitious attempts to probe the universe.
Prof. Hass holds the Murray B. Koffler Professorial Chair. The Nahal Soreq Nuclear Research Center scientists are Drs. Yeshayahu Lifshitz, Yosef Barak and Jacob Levinson.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.