The "Comet Physics Laboratory" (CoPhyLab) is an international research project dealing with comets. The three main partners of the project are the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics of the TU Braunschweig, the Institute for Space Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz and the Physics Institute of the University of Bern. The aim of the CoPhyLab is to research the physics of comets, in particular the processes that make them active. To do this, in the first step we investigate the properties of the elementary components of comets, special water ice, CO2 ice and an artificial cometary dust.
We develop this in order to reproduce as many known properties as possible without using toxic or otherwise dangerous substances. For this purpose, we have developed a sublimation chamber in Braunschweig, in which we can store small samples of ice and dust at -170 ° C in a vacuum and then irradiate them with an artificial sun to induce activity. For the other project phases, we are developing a large vacuum chamber in Braunschweig, which is the heart of the project. In this “L-chamber” we combine 14 instruments that can all examine the same sample at the same time. These samples are 25 cm in diameter and 10 to 30 cm high. As in the small chamber, the samples are stored at -170 ° C in a vacuum to create comet-like conditions. Here, too, we have an artificial sun, which has a total output of 2.7 kW. The duration of the experiments is theoretically unlimited, we are currently planning series of measurements with a duration of up to 6 weeks.
This is the "L-Chamber", the heart of the CoPhyLab project. In it, samples of ice and dust are stored at -170 ° C and in a vacuum in order to simulate comet-like conditions. A total of 14 different instruments are installed in and around the chamber, all of which can examine the sample at the same time. The two cooling systems are operated with liquid nitrogen and the measurement duration is in principle unlimited, up to 6 weeks are currently planned.