Dirk Trienekens: Plasmas under zero-gravity conditions

I’m Dirk Trienekens; I finished my Master's project at EPG in November 2011. I wanted to do experimental work for my graduation project and because I enjoyed internship (which I also did at EPG) I decided to go talk to Gerrit Kroesen about the possibilities to graduate at EPG. I was happy to notice he really tried to find a project that suited my wishes. I decided to work on a project that studies the sheath of RF plasmas. A plasma sheath is a region in the plasma near a solid surface where the ion density is much greater than the electron density, leading to an electric field there. My supervisor Job Beckers had already successfully used microparticles of several micrometers in diameter to study this sheath. These microparticles become trapped in the so called plasma sheath due to electrostatic forces (they charge up) and their position gives information about the electric field.

A lot of the work I have been doing so far has been building and testing a new setup. Although it was a lot of work to get the entire setup operational, it was definitely worth the effort since our final goal was to participate in the 54th ESA parabolic flight campaign. To complete the data Job had already acquired we needed to be able to measure at 0-1 g and therefore we had to go to Bordeaux. This was a great experience, and I am really grateful I got the chance to go there. Although at the moment I am writing this we are still busy interpreting the data, it seems we got some very interesting results.

I am really enjoying the work I am doing. So far my graduation project has led to some interesting results which of course raise questions again. This natural process ‘forces’ you to always think of new ways to solve questions and think of new experiments to perform. If you can’t solve a problem on your own you can always talk to group members, who are always willing to help.

In the coffee room not only highly complex questions about plasmas may come up however, but also the more important questions in life like “how yoghurt is made?” or “where does the Dutch expression ‘nu is de kogel door de kerk’ come from?” There’s a nice atmosphere inside the group and several initiatives are organized to also get along outside the university like an international cooking evening or a collective participation in a pub quiz. This will make sure you will not only have a great time at EPG scientifically, but also socially. I certainly don’t regret my choice!

Dirk Trienekens, Eindhoven, May 2011