PK-3 Plus

The PK-3 Plus microgravity laboratory was a joint project between our precursor institute, the Max-Planck-Institute for extraterretrial Physics, and the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It was operated on board the International Space Station from 2006 - 2013. Its heart consisted of a capcacitively coupled radio-frequency driven plasma chamber. The chamber was filled with argon or neon gas or a mixture at pressures between 8 Pa and 255 Pa. Microparticles of sizes between 1.55 um and 14.9 um were injected in the plasma, forming a complex plasma. The particles were illuminated with a laser sheet and their movement recorded with cameras with frame rates up to 50 Hz. A function generator and thermophroesis were able to manipulate the complex plasma. The microgravity conditions on board the ISS are very favorable, so that studies in the plasma bulk are possible.

Details on the laboratory can be found in Thomas et al, New J. Phys. 10, 033036 (2008) (open access pdf)

Collaborators Wanted! 

cosmonautData produced with PK-3 Plus was the basis for more than 50 publications (see list of publications). Topics that were investigated include:

  • Afterglow & Decharging
  • Agglomeration
  • Binary Complex Plasmas
  • Crazy Particles, Mach Cones & Projectiles
  • Crystallization / Melting
  • Decharging in the Plasma Afterglow
  • Dispersion Relation / Wave Excitation
  • Gas Mixture (argon/neon)
  • Heart Beat & Other Instabilities
  • Injection Into Pure Plasma and Into Pure Gas
  • Lane Formation & Phase Separation
  • Particles In Void
  • Self-Excited Waves
  • Shock Waves
  • Sphere - Complex Plasma interaction
  • String Fluids & Electrorheology
  • Turbulence
  • Void Closure
  • Vortices

There is still data available that has not been analyzed yet. We have thus decided to offer some of the PK-3 Plus data to external collaborators. The result should be a joint publication, and the space agencies Roscosmos and DLR must be acknowledged.

If you are a dusty / complex plasma scientist and interested in collaborating with us, please see below for some examples of available data, or contact us with ideas: Mierk Schwabe or Hubertus Thomas. Data might also be shared on the PK-3 Plus Zenodo community.

Some examples of available data:

pk3p agglomeration

pk3p heartbeat

pk3p selfexcited

pk3p shocks

pk3p strings