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Sub-10 MeV proton irradiation effects on a coating obtained from the pulsed laser ablation of W2B5/B4C for space applications
This research investigates the effects of sub-10 MeV protons on coatings obtained from the pulsed laser ablation of W2B5/B4C. This is in an attempt to extend the bullet proof applications of W2B5/B4C to space radiation shielding applications, offering low cost and low mass protection against radiation including X-rays, neutrons, gamma rays and protons in low Earth orbit. The focus in this research, however, is on low energy protons. The associated problems addressed in this work are solar cell degradation and Single Event Upsets in high density semiconductor devices caused by low energy protons. The relevant constraints considered are the necessity for low cost, low mass and high efficiency solutions. The work starts with a literature review of the space environment, the interaction of radiation with matter, and on pulsed laser deposition as a technique of choice for the coating synthesis. This paves the way for the pulsed laser ablation of W2B5/B4C. The resulting coating is a solid solution of the form WC1-xBx which contains crystalline and amorphous forms. Two proton irradiation experiments are carried out on this coating, and the resulting effects are analysed. The effects of 900 keV proton irradiation were the melting and subsequent growing of nanorods on the surface of the coating, the lateral transfer of the proton energy across the coating surface, and the lateral displacement of matter along the coating surface. These effects show that the coating is a promising cost effective and low mass radiation shield against low energy protons. The effects of 1 MeV protons on this coating are the three-stage melting of rods formed on the coating surface, and further evidence of lateral transfer of energy across the coating surface. Optical measurements of this coating show that it is about 73% transparent in the Ultraviolet, Visible and near Infrared range. This allows it to be used as radiation shielding for solar cells, in addition to high density semiconductor devices, against low energy protons in low Earth orbit. Simulations show that based on coulombic interactions alone, the same level of protection coverglass offers to solar cells can be achieved with about half the thickness of WC1-xBx or less.