Professor's concept could revolutionize space exploration

  • WSU physics professor Nickolas Solomey and graduate Caleb Gimar are working on research to someday build a detector that could be flown near the sun.
  • The detector would revolutionize the way scientists study the sun and provide wonderful new insights into particle physics.
  • Solomey's research was boosted by an Innovation and Advanced Concept Award given by NASA.

Wichita State University physics professor Nickolas Solomey has won one of NASA's coveted Innovation and Advanced Concept Awards (NIAC) for his research to create a neutrino detector for close sun orbit.

The award includes approximately $125,000 over nine months to support initial definition and analysis of the concept.

NASA selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

"This is certainly very ambitious. We're trying to do something that is somewhat unprecedented."

-Caleb Gimar

Solomey's research focuses on the creation of spacecraft and detector technology capable of operating close to the sun. This technology is needed, he says, to study the sun's solar interior to better understand its future expected changes, as well as fundamental physics that involve the sun.

Along with NASA's immense capabilities, this could revolutionize the way in which scientists study the sun and provide wonderful new insights into particle physics, Solomey says.

“If we can take a very small neutrino detector, instead of these kiloton ones like we have here on Earth … that will allow us to look directly into the core of the sun,” he says.

First-year physics graduate student Caleb Gimar, who is working alongside Solomey on the project, says this is an exceptionally innovative opportunity for him to be a part of.

“This is certainly very ambitious,” Gimar says. “We're trying to do something that is somewhat unprecedented in the sense of trying to put a detector in the near solar environment.”

» Learn more about Solomey's research.