Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students

Project description

Simulation of ionospheric radio-wave propagation

(supervisor: Eleri Pryse)

Nature of project: experimental, instrumental

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes only.

Project description and methodology

Radio waves traversing a plasma medium containing irregularities in refractive index are subject to random fluctuations of phase and intensity. These fluctuations, known as scintillation, can severely degrade transionospheric radio signals. The situation may be considered in terms of diffraction theory. The project requires an experimental ultrasound system to be developed on the laboratory scale that simulates the radio propagation environment. The waves are passed through rising hot turbulent air and the diffraction pattern formed beyond the air stream is investigated.

A second aspect of radio propagation, for investigation in the event of the experimental study not being possible, is the application of radio signals to ionospheric tomography. This would be by computer simulation, which will become the focus of the project should lab access become restricted.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
Multi-receiver system for the scintillation experiment.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Please speak to Eleri Pryse (sep) if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. The Near-Earth Plasma Environment, Robert F. Pfaff Jr., Space Sci Rev 168:23-112, 2012.
  2. Some Aspects of Irregular Diffraction Studied by Means of Ultrasonic Waves, K Bartusek and D G Felgate, Australian Journal of Physics, Vol 19, 545, 1966.
  3. Radio Tomography: A new experimental technique, S E Pryse, Surveys in Geophysics, 1-38, 2003.

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

Will require technical assistance.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Understanding of radiowave propagation through the ionosphere, and an appreciation of the analogy between the scintillation and the laboratory experiment.end of November
Design an initial set-up of the laboratory experiment.Christmas
Develop monitoring and analysis methods for investigating the observed diffraction pattern. end of February
Analysis of experimental data and interpretation of the observations.Easter

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form