Off Topic => General Discussion => Topic started by: ApolloEnthusiast on June 07, 2019, 11:02:07 AM

Title: Magnetic Field as radiation shield
Post by: ApolloEnthusiast on June 07, 2019, 11:02:07 AM
I wasn't sure exactly where to put this, so hopefully this is fine.

I understand that the trip to the Moon poses minimal radiation risk because of it's short duration, but that a trip to Mars, for example, is much more problematic.

I also understand that radiation shielding can come in a lot of different forms, each bringing it's own set of problems.  I was wondering if it was plausible to use a magnetic field, and thought this was a good place to get an intelligent answer.

Is the power consumption of maintaining it a deal breaker?  I'm extremely unfamiliar with how strong a field is necessary to be helpful and how much power would be required to maintain that strength.

Is something like this a viable alternative to some of the other options or is it pure science fiction?

Title: Re: Magnetic Field as radiation shield
Post by: smartcooky on June 07, 2019, 05:02:24 PM
"Shields up Scotty!!"... but seriously, it is not a new idea. Its called "active shielding" (as opposed to passive shielding, which is use of materials designed to shield spacecraft from cosmic radiation).

I read an article from the mid 1990s some years ago discussing the idea in which active shielding was considered to be infeasible due to the power requirements and the weight (mass) of the necessary equipment. There is also the problem that, what happens if your electro-magnetic shielding unit fails... you have no shielding. For this reason I think a combination of active and passive shielding will be the way forward.

Here is a 2008 article that looks promising, I am sure there will have been some progress since then


ETA: Here is the 1993 paper I mentioned above



And an interesting short video from NASA Ames

Title: Re: Magnetic Field as radiation shield
Post by: raven on June 07, 2019, 08:42:22 PM
Though it won't protect against neutral particles, it could still have the potential to have mass savings over conventional shielding for long term missions. The biggest downside I can see if it is something that can break and is pretty critical. Sure, you'll probably want a conventionally shielded 'storm shelter' anyway, but, in the event of failure, it's gonna be very psychologically trying to conduct a mission from one, unless it's big enough to be the worst of both worlds.
Title: Re: Magnetic Field as radiation shield
Post by: jfb on June 10, 2019, 12:19:49 PM
IINM, the majority of the radiation risk is from high-energy charged particles, which can be deflected using a magnetic field.  However, that won't do anything against high-energy EM radiation (gamma and X-rays) or neutral particles, so you will still need some kind of passive shielding. 

I don't have the engineering chops to determine if it would save you anything in the long term over strictly passive shielding. 
Title: Re: Magnetic Field as radiation shield
Post by: ApolloEnthusiast on June 10, 2019, 01:41:59 PM
Thanks for the articles and video.  I'm especially excited by the 1993 one you linked. It's taking me a little time to go through it because of my lack of engineering and science education, but I'm finding it extremely interesting.