A simple 3D plasma instrument with an electrically adjustable geometric factor for space research

U. Rohner, L. Saul, P. Wurz, F. Allegrini, J. Scheer, D. McComas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We report on the design and experimental verification of a novel charged particle detector and an energy spectrometer with variable geometric factor functionality. Charged particle populations in the inner heliosphere create fluxes that can vary over many orders of magnitude in flux intensity. Space missions that plan to observe plasma fluxes, for example when travelling close to the Sun or to a planetary magnetosphere, require rapid particle measurements over the full three-dimensional velocity distribution. Traditionally, such measurements are carried out with plasma instrumentation with a fixed geometrical factor, which can only operate in a limited range of flux intensity. Here we report on the design and testing of a prototype sensor, which is capable of measuring particle flux with high angular and energy resolution, yet has a variable geometric factor that is controlled without moving parts. This prototype was designed in support of a proposal to make fast electron measurements on the Solar Probe Plus (SP+) mission planned by NASA. We simulated the ion optics inside the instrument and optimized the performance to design and build our prototype. This prototype was then tested in the MEFISTO facility at the University of Bern and its performance was verified over the full range of azimuth, elevation, energy and intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025901
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


  • 3D particle imaging
  • plasma instrument
  • space instrumentation
  • variable geometric factor


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