ESC2RAD is a Research and Innovation H2020 project financed by the European Commission. It aims at studying Space radiation effects on both biological targets and functional materials (like solar cells) for missions like the ISS and a mission to and on Mars. While the Space radiation effects and Space Weather community rely on some traditional approaches to estimate the induced effects (mainly based on Monte Carlo modelling, appropriate for high energy impacting particles), the ESC2RAD consortium will focus on that energy range where typical assumptions made by such approaches break down, and first principles approaches from the quantum chemistry/electronic structure community (Time Dependent Density Functional Theory, coupled with ab-initio Molecular Dynamics) allow to gain further insights.
The current vision for the next missions to deep Space and to Mars involves both human and robotic missions. During the different phases of the missions (at Low Earth Orbit like the International Space Station, the interplanetary travel and the stay on Mars) radiation (mainly protons and electrons) induces both biological damage in the astronauts and degradation of the components of spacecraft/rovers.
Energies relevant for Space radiation environments are from few ~keV to few GeV for protons and from few keV to few hundreds MeV for electrons. Radiation damage via Monte Carlo approaches has a long and robust tradition in particle physics and also in Space radiation modelling. Nevertheless, it has now come the time to go beyond certain approximations underlying such approach. For this, first-principles (parameter-free) approaches from other communities are very promising in providing a quantum mechanical description of the impact of projectile particles which overcomes such approximations.
The aim of the project is to advance the understanding of radiation damage in both biological targets, in particular the first-stage process of water radiolysis, and in functional materials, such as the solar cells of a spacercaft or a rover. Such damage is nowadays studies mainly via Monte Carlo particle transport code, for example Geant4-DNA (a track structure code which is the low energy extension of Geant4) and Geant4 (a "condensed history" Monte Carlo particle transport code). Our aim is to improve the modeling of radiation effects in biology and solid targets overcoming the approximations used in Monte Carlo particle transport approaches. For biological targets, where biological damage is mainly induced by secondaries species generates in the ionization/excitation of the surrouding water medium, a better description of low energy electrons generated in water radiolysis will be investigated, as well as the possibility to describe energy deposition in water by impacting protons throught a statistical convenient approach in first-principles approaches. For functional materials, such as the solar cells of a spacecraft or a rover, those quantities that are important for the damage and that are connected to atomic displacement (like the threshold energy for displacement, its possible dependence on crystalline orientation and on the synergy with electronic excitations, which cannot be studies via Geant4) will be investigated. New radiation-resistant materials will be investigated too.
Contact: BIRA-IASB, Av. Circulaire 3, Brussels, Belgium.