The Swedish Planetary Ices Laboratory

The Planetary Ices Laboratory at Luleå University of Technology is used to investigate thermophysical processes of planets and minor bodies. Its facilities have been used to simulate the environmental conditions on Earth, Mars, comets and asteroids.


The equipment available for investigations (see images) includes:

  1. Dirty thermal vacuum chamber (DTVC) with cold shroud, capable of maintaining atmospheric pressures from 10-5 to 103 mbar at temperatures as low as -140ºC. Mars atmospheric conditions can be maintained for periods exceeding several days;
  2. LS1000R3 1000W Full Spectrum Solar Simulator to provide controlled solar input with zero airmass;
  3. Ice making equipment for producing water and carbon dioxide ices of various morphologies;
  4. Cold storage equipment for temperatures from -86ºC to room temperature;
  5. Thermal and mechanical measurement suite


Setup for comet simulations with solar simulator to the left and DTVC to the right


Inside the DTVC: sample container and cold plate – setup for comet simulation experiments

Case studies

The Planetary Ices Laboratory was used to investigate light transmission through Mars dust contaminated snow under terrestrial atmospheric conditions [1]. It has also enabled us to verify theoretical models of arachneiform morphology on Mars [2]. Another application was the establishment of an important boundary condition for Mars atmospheric models, namely the e-folding scale of CO2 ice [3]. The laboratory was also able to provide supporting measurements for the Rosetta mission, demonstrating subsurface ice hardening and dust agglomeration [4].


[1] E. Kaufmann & A. Hagermann, 2015: Penetration of solar radiation into pure and Mars-dust contaminated snow. Icarus, Vol. 252, pp. 144-149.

[2] E. Kaufmann, & A. Hagermann, 2017: Experimental investigation of insolation-driven dust ejection from Mars’ CO2 ice caps. Icarus, Vol. 282, pp. 118-126.

[3] H. E. Chinnery et al.: The Penetration of Solar Radiation into Carbon Dioxide Ice. JGR Planets, in press.

[4] E. Kaufmann & A. Hagermann: Constraining the parameter space of comet simulation experiments. Icarus, Vol. 311, pp. 105-112.


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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.