Outstanding scientific achievements: Dr. Francesca Luoni of GSI’s Biophysics Department receives award from the association “Freunde der TU Darmstadt”


Dr. Francesca Luoni from the GSI Department of Biophysics was honored with the “Prize for outstanding scientific achievements” of the association “Freunde der Technische Universität zu Darmstadt e.V.”. She received the award for her PhD thesis on “Radiation Shielding during Deep-Space Missions: Dose Measurements, Monte Carlo Simulations, and Nuclear Cross-Sections”. The award ceremony took place on May 25 at the spring festival of the TU Friends in the guest house of the TU Darmstadt.

Dr. Francesca Luoni studied at the Engineering Technical University of Milan (Politecnico di Milano). She wrote her Master’s Thesis in Milan and at the German Aerospace Center DLR. After graduating as a nuclear engineer, she started her PhD research at the Technical University of Darmstadt and at the Department of Biophysics at GSI. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the GSI Biophysics Department, Space Radiation Physics research. Her focus is on radiation shielding during space missions. She is also a spokesperson for the GSI-ESA-NASA nuclear cross-section databases resulting from the ESA project ROSSINI3 and part of the team organizing the "ESA-FAIR Radiation Summer School" held annually in Darmstadt at GSI/FAIR and ESA.

In her awarded PhD thesis, mentored by Professor Marco Durante, head of GSI Biophysics, Dr. Francesca Luoni focused on the physics of the interaction of space radiation with materials that are candidates for passive shielding during long-term space missions. Passive shielding is currently considered the most promising radiation protection strategy. This approach consists of adding shielding material to the walls of the spacecraft and the planetary bases.

In her thesis, Dr. Francesca Luoni presented results obtained in the accelerator-based experimental campaigns with ion beams as they occur in space and different shielding materials: among other findings, this showed that lithium-based hydrides stabilized with paraffin were proved to combine the promising dose attenuation properties of the pure hydrides and the mechanical and chemical stability of the paraffin, resulting in good candidate shielding materials for space missions. Subsequently, the experimental data were compared with the simulation results of the most commonly used Monte Carlo codes. The simulations showed significant and systematic differences. Therefore, the last part of the work focused on the presentation of the two nuclear cross-section databases with total reaction cross-sections and fragment production cross-sections, that were generated within Francesca Luoni’s work. The databases were made open access to provide the research communities interested in such data, with the possibility to access them and plot them alongside the parametrizations.

The association “Freunde der Technische Universität zu Darmstadt e.V.” awards 13 prizes each year for outstanding scientific achievements - one prize for each TU department. Since 1987, the organization honored young scientists annually. The 13 departments select the best PhD thesis of the current year and report this to the association. The excellent PhD theses are awarded with 2,500 euros each, plus a one-year free membership in the association “Freunde der der Technische Universität”. (BP)

Further information

Vereinigung von Freunden der Technischen Universität zu Darmstadt e.V