Experimental Simulation of Solar Wind Implantation in Silicate Minerals

The surface of asteroids and planets, with no atmosphere and a strong magnetic field, in the Solar System (e.g. Moon, Mercury) is impacted by energetic (~1 keV/nucleon) solar wind ions. The solar wind consists of 95% protons, 2-4% He++, and the rest heavy ions. The interaction of ions with minerals, present on the surface of planets and asteroids, changes the structure and chemical composition of the upper few nanometers of the mineral surface and this leads to changes in the optical properties (UV, VNIR) of the material. Since optical spectroscopy is generally used to characterize the surface composition of solar system bodies, it is important to understand the mechanism and products of interaction between ions and minerals. Here, I propose to experimentally implant 40-60 keV Ar++ ions (Fluence: 1e16-1e18 ions/cm2) into thin slices of minerals (e.g. olivine, pyroxene) crystals and pressed powder pellets. After irradiation the samples will be studied using FIB and TEM.

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