The main goal of this project is to set up of a “virtual modeling lab” which combines Space Weather modeling via the European Space Agency (ESA) SPace ENVironment Information System (SPENVIS) tool and first-principles modeling of space radiation effects on matter (here solar cells and biological matter), down to the very molecular and atomistic level by using the first-principles codes, like SIESTA (https://departments.icmab.es/leem/siesta/) and CP2K (https://www.cp2k.org/about), able to perform Molecular Dynamics and Time Dependent Density Functional Theory. Particular attention will be given to phenomena which are not accurately described by Monte Carlo particle transport. In particular, the following specific objectives can be identified:

  • To study the degradation of the solar cells for a mission at low-earth orbits and a mission to Mars, under different worst case scenarios in Space Weather, via first-principles.
  • To assess the biological damage down to the molecular level by first-principles, by analyzing the propensity of different chemical bonds in DNA to break due to irradiation of ions constituting a relevant portion of GCRs for the missions mentioned above, in particular those associated with strand breaks.
  • To analyze the validity and limitations of the definition of worst-case scenarios used in the Space Weather modeling, in relation to the damage of the solar cells and of the biological matter obtained by first principles. In particular, the impact of the radiation for a certain scenario might be different for different layers of the currently used multi-junctions solar cells, but worst case scenarios might damage those layers which would have anyway lower quantum efficiency for the energy of the radiation of that solar event. Thus, the overall impact on the solar cell might not be so relevant. Similarly, for a specific event, the damage can be different on water, DNA in water, and DNA-protein complex in water, and some might be more easily repaired.
  • To set up a first principles database for the stopping power and the cross sections, that can either be used for studies based on sole first-principles approaches or to ameliorate and extend the present accuracy of Geant4/Geant4-DNA tools through new improved “physics” and “chemistry” lists.


Contact: BIRA-IASB, Av. Circulaire 3, Brussels, Belgium.