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ESC2RAD is a Research and Innovation H2020 project financed by the European Commission (Grant agreement 776410). It aims at improving the modelling of Space radiation-induced effects on both biological matter and functional materials for spacecraft, in contexts that are relevant for Space and planetary missions, especially in those energy ranges where there is room to ameliorate current Monte Carlo particle transport models. ESC2RAD will use ab-initio coupled ion-electron dynamics (Time Dependent Density Functional Theory, coupled with Ehrenfest Dynamics) to provide, for the first time, parameter-free input to Monte Carlo track structure codes for biological damage and the development of new risk models for Space exploration and will help ameliorating the Non-Ionizing Energy Loss (NIEL) model for materials degradation (in particular, spacecraft solar cells). The energy ranges in which such ab-initio models are relevant and on which we will focus are between a few tenths of keV down to eV in the case of biological matter and a few MeV down to ~keV for solar cells. Contrary to some common knowledge, experience accumulated in the last two decades has shown that, for biological damage, the models used in track structure codes for both primary impacting (eventually slowed down by shielding) ions and secondary low energy electrons are not sufficiently accurate. For materials' degradation, the biggest damage in spacecraft solar cells occur for impacting particles of few MeV down to some few hyundreds of keV (trapped radiation or Solar Energetic Particles), where some relevant approximations done in condensed-hystory Monte Carlo tools are questionable.
Our aim is to improve the modeling of radiation effects in both these fields and to join different communities to make the knowledge and understanding of biological damage and materials degradation in space and planetary missions advance.
1. For biological targets, we will devise a strategy to study the effects of both medium-low energy protons and low energy secondary electrons on water and biological molecules. This study will go beyond the optical data model currently used for the dielectric fuction and the cross sections in track structure codes. A final roadmap will also be provided for those studies that, from a chemical physics/condensed matter perspective, can make the field advance.
2. For the solar cells, we will study both state-of-the-art triple junctions solar cells (GaInP/GaAs/Ge), used for present missions like the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, the Juno spacecraft around Jupiter, and future missions such as JUICE and ExoMars2022, and new radiation-resistant materials like hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites, a potential disruptive technology for Space as well for Earth. We will investigate a) channeling effects; b) the dynamical nature of the threshold energy for displacement; c) collisional cascades in a non-adiabatic regime; d) intelligent design of new descriptors for the stability of the perovskites.
Contact: BIRA-IASB, Av. Circulaire 3, Brussels, Belgium.