Societal and Economic Impact 


UK Solar Physics has an international reputation for producing highly skilled instrumentalists, mathematical modellers and physicists. Through SULIS many UK PhD and PDRAs will develop diverse skills in instrument/component design/build, mission design/control, and data analysis/interpretation. Partners (including the Pis) are members of the STFC-funded UK-DKIST consortium (ST/L006308/1), the world’s largest ground-based solar telescope. High value skills training feed into industry, education and other sectors. Our industrial partner SSTL provides training and development programmes, consultancy services, and mission studies for ESA, NASA, international governments and commercial customers.

All partner organisations have established public outreach programmes and will promote SULIS and raise public awareness of space weather. For example, Northumbria University NUSTEM, was recently awarded £100k under the STFC large public engagements grant (ST/S000070/1) for “Exploring Extreme Environments”. Dr Morton is lead on SOLARNET-II (an H2020 funded EU-wide project) public outreach (~£100k). These projects bring together STFC-funded scientists, artists and public engagement experts.

Formation Flying CubeSat Development: The technological innovations of SULIS will advance the power efficiency, communications and control for CubeSat’s and constellations. Any such advance has huge potential for future CubeSat applications. Furthermore, the use of CubeSat’s for an ambitious space missions sets a benchmark for future, more cost-effective missions. One basic advantage of a Cubesat constellation is the potential for incremental growth. The UK, or even other agencies, may in principle contribute further CubeSat’s to the project, and instrumentation on future CubeSat’s can be adapted or improved to address additional science goals (Keck Institute for Space Studies Report).

Radiation-hardened PV systems development (Swansea University in collaboration with Northumbria University): TFSC material is 2-orders of magnitude more radiation stable than that of commercially available space solar cells. A substantial increase, from 10 kW to a predicted 100 kW, in CubeSat power can be achieved through large-format PV cells, leading to much-improved power-to-weight ratio. This is particularly important with regard to the high data rate requirements of missions such as SULIS. This aspect has obvious great potential for future low-cost space technology. Enabling this power scale-up requires new, large-format (10cm x 10cm), thin film deposition equipment.

 Future communications technology (Li-Fi: Northumbria University): VLC is a sustainable and green technology offering multi-purpose functionality. This aspect may change the future of communications. The global VLC technology** market will rise from $267.6M (2014) to $113 billion by 2022. OWC offers a wide range of applications including short range optical wireless body networks for healthcare applications*, medium range inter-vehicular and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and ultra-long range for inter-satellite links. A world-leading OCRG at Northumbria University will research the development and manufacturing of OWC systems for SULIS with participation from local industry. SULIS will act as a technology demonstrator for VLC (note: similar was proposed in the ESA-DOCS and INSTANT mission concepts).

Research by CSER and NUPV into solar cells for space applications is supported by leading space sector companies. IQE, the world’s largest IIIV and Group IV semiconductor epitaxy company, are industrial partners with Swansea University. Through this research, components from IQE are operational within Apple iPhones. Current space development includes quantum dot solar cells with industry support from Airbus and Solar Capture Technologies.

*Uysal, M., Capsoni, C., Ghassemlooy, Z., Boucouvalas, Udvary. A., 2016, “Optical Wireless Communications: An Emerging Technology”, Signals and Communications Technology, Springer, ISBN 978-3-319-30200-3

**Transparency Market Research in its report, “Visible Light Communication Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecasts 2015-2022”.