Public Lecture:

Title: To planets or just to the shops, Plasmas pave the path

Speaker: Associate Professor Christine Charles

Abstract: Plasmas have existed since the very first moments of the Universe. It is the stuff of stars. It fills the space between stars. It gives us the beautiful northern and southern aurorae. Our houses have plasma TV displays, plasma lights (fluorescent tubes). Everywhere we look, there is plasma. But we stand on solid earth and the solid-state accounts for less than one percent of the total mass of the Universe. The rest is plasma, a hot ionised gas containing positive and negative charges (except, perhaps, for dark matter). By properly harnessing the plasma state we can make microchips for computers, we can make plasma engines (thrusters) to get to the planets, and we can make fuel cells to take people just down to the shops. The discovery in Australia of a current-free electric double layer (a waterfall of electrical energy that energises charged particles falling through it) in a laboratory plasma is the basis of a new space engine: the Australian Helicon Double Layer Thruster.

Biography: Christine Charles is Associate Professor at the Australian National University. She has a French Engineering degree in applied physics, a French Masters in materials science, a French PhD in plasma physics, a French Habilitation thesis in materials science and a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz from the ANU (she has made a CD of Breton fusion music). For the past twenty years, she has been working on expanding plasmas and their applications to electric propulsion, microelectronics and optoelectronics, astrophysical objects, and, more recently, to the development of fuel cells for the hydrogen economy. She is the inventor of the Helicon Double Layer Thruster, a new electrode-less magneto-plasma thruster, that has applications including satellite station keeping or interplanetary space travel. The thruster concept is based on her discovery in 1999 of the current-free double layer in an expanding radiofrequency plasma. The new Australian Thruster concept has attracted worldwide media coverage and has been the basis of many Television Shows (e.g. ABC Catalyst 2004 and 2007, Discovery Channel Canada 2008, ABC 2 Space Show 2007). She enjoys playing music, surfing, canoeing, cycling and bushwalking.

Date: 28 May 2009
Time: 7.30pm – 8.30pm 
Max numbers: 144
Location: Building 402 Room 220 (there will be signage) - in Curtin Business School One
Map: http://properties.curtin.edu.au/maps/
Parking: free if parking in red or yellow areas (do not park in any reserved bays or areas). Recommend parking in Car Park 25 off Brand Drive.