Plasmas for aerospace

Numerical codes implementing kinetic, PIC, DSMC and fluid dynamic approaches and including advanced state-to-state chemical-physical models are used for the investigation of plasmas of interest for aerospace applications, with particular attention to the simulation of non-equilibrium conditions in planetary entry conditions, dusty plasmas and plasma propulsion systems.

Hypersonic Flows

The reliable prediction of thermal loads on a spacecraft thermal protection systems during an high-speed entry in the atmosphere of Earth and other planets requires proper consideration of the non-equilibrium character of the flow, taking into account the elementary processes of atomic and molecular excitation, dissociation and ionization induced by collisions with heavy particles and electrons, in the state-to-state approach, extended also to more complex molecules as CO2. Radiation emitted by excited species gives a further contribution to the vehicle heat load, determined by photon transport equation.
Different non-equilibrium phenomena can be observed in the first part of the atmosphere, in very rarefied conditions, where the mean free path of particles is very long, comparable with the vehicle dimensions, needing particle simulations (DSMC). Other problems are related to the control and stability of hypersonic intercontinental flights based on SCRAMJET engine. Surface dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) is a promising technique to avoid the use of mechanical actuators, not adequate for hypersonic flights. Particle and fluid simulations have been done for modelling DBD’s. Different approaches have been used to investigate geometries, ranging from homogeneous systems to 3D flows coupling self-consistently Boltzmann and Master Equations, Radiative Transfer Equation (RTE), Boundary Layer or Navier-Stokes Equations.

» Plasmas in high enthalpy flows

» Radiation transport

» Boundary layer flow

» Plasma actuators

Space Plasmas

Plasma is the most diffuse matter state in the Universe, where conditions are often very extreme, from very low to very high density. This research line starting from fundamental aspects has different applications.

» Dusty Plasmas
The interaction of space dust in the surrounding plasma determines charging/growing dynamics and transport of dust grains. This research line deals with the dynamics of dust above airless body surfaces, rings and planetesimal formation.

» Nanoconfined Atoms and Molecules
Atomic species in high-density plasma, as met in star, are investigated by means of quantum theory. Modification of the atomic structure has relevant effects in thermodynamics and transport properties.

» Astrochemistry
The study concerns the chemical kinetics of the formation of the first molecules and the effect of the distribution of energy on the reaction mechanisms in space environment.

» Scientific space mission design
The advances in theoretical and numerical study of plasma turbulence require constant validation from in-situ observations. This calls for the progressive improvement and specific design of scientific space mission, that need to provide the observables necessary for the validation of the theory. NANOTEC_Rende actively participates in the design and realization of ESA and NASA space missions, such as ESA/THOR, ESA/Solar Orbiter and NASA/GRIPS.

Plasma for Space Propulsion

Electric thrusters (Hall-effect and helicon discharges) and plasma-assisted combustion (SCRAMJET) are important for space transportation (satellite guidance, orbit transfer and deep space exploration). Different numerical approaches (particle-based models and chemical kinetics) have been used to investigate non-equilibrium conditions typical of plasma propulsion systems.

» LOx/CH4 for planetary exploration

» SCRAMJET for hypersonic intercontinental flights

» Hall-effect thrusters for satellite positioning and orientation, planetary missions

» Helicon plasma thruster for less expensive propellant

Facilities & Labs

HPC Cluster and Services @ Bari





CNR Researcher




CNR Researcher



CNR Researcher




CNR Researcher



CNR Researcher



Associate Professor



CNR Researcher



Associate Professor



Associate Professor


  1. G. Colonna, G. D’Ammando, L. D. Pietanza, M. Capitelli, Excited-state kinetics and radiation transport in low-temperature plasmas, Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 57, 014009, (2015); doi: 10.1088/0741-3335/57/1/014009
  2. R. Pepe, A. Bonfiglioli, A. D’Angola, G. Colonna, R. Paciorri, An unstructured shock-fitting solver for hypersonic plasma flows in chemical non-equilibrium, Computer Physics Communications, 196, 179–193, (2015); doi: 10.1016/j.cpc.2015.06.005
  3. G. D’Ammando, M. Capitelli, F. Esposito, A. Laricchiuta, L. D. Pietanza, G. Colonna , The role of radiative reabsorption on the electron energy distribution functions in H2/He plasma expansion through a tapered nozzle, Physics of Plasmas, 21, 093508, (2014); doi: 10.1063/1.4895481
  4. M. Tuttafesta, G. Colonna, G. Pascazio, Computing unsteady compressible flows using Roe’s flux-difference splitting scheme on GPUs, Computer Physics Communications, 184, 1497–1510, (2013); doi: 10.1016/j.cpc.2013.01.018
  5. M. Capitelli, G. Colonna, L. D. Pietanza, G. D’Ammando, Coupling of radiation, excited states and electron energy distribution function in non equilibrium hydrogen plasmas, Review in Spectrochimica Acta Part B: Atomic Spectroscopy, 83–84, 1–13, (2013); doi: 10.1016/j.sab.2013.03.004
  6. G. Colonna, L. D. Pietanza, G. D’Ammando, M. Capitelli, Self-consistent coupling of chemical, electron and radiation models for shock wave in Jupiter atmosphere, AIP Conference Proceedings, 1501, 1400, (2012); doi: 10.1063/1.4769703
  7. F. Taccogna, D. Pagano, F. Scortecci, A. Garulli, Three-Dimensional Plume Simulation of Multi-Channel Thruster Configuration, Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 23, 065034, (2014) ISNN: 0963-0252; doi: 10.1088/0963-0252/23/6/065034
  8. F. Taccogna, R. Schneider, S. Longo, M. Capitelli, Kinetic simulations of plasma thrusters, Plasma Source Sci. and Technol., 17, 024003, (2008) ISNN: 0963-0252; doi: 10.1088/0963-0252/17/2/024003
  9. I.Armenise, E.V.Kustova, On different contributions to the heat flux and diffusion in non-equilibrium flows, Chemical Physics, 428, 90-104, (2014); doi: 10.1016/j.chemphys.2013.11.003
  10. I. Armenise, P. Reynier and E. Kustova, Advanced Models for Vibrational and Chemical Kinetics Applied to Mars Entry Aaerothermodynamics, Journal of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer, 30, 705-720, (2016); doi: 10.2514/1.T4708


HALL: Sistema di propulsione al plasma per la crescita dell’industria aerospaziale pugliese, Puglia FESR (2007-2013)

APULIA SPACE: Esperti nell’uso di tecnologia abilitanti nel settore dello spazio (2014-2016)

Latest News

Technology Trasfer in Nanotechnology

Technology Transfer in Nanotechnology: Challenges and Opportunity

Lecce, 18/19 ottobre 2018

CNR NANOTEC c/o Campus Ecotekne

JRC in collaboration with the National Research Council (Cnr) is organising a workshop on Technology Transfer in Nanotechnology,

which will take place in CNR Nanotec (Lecce, Italy) on 18 and 19 October. This workshop is organised in the framework of the TTO-CIRCLE initiatives.   The aim of this event is to explore how technology transfer activities can be used as a mechanism to help EU industry, particularly Start-ups and SMEs, and Government in deploying and adopting Nano-technology. Practical examples will be presented to illustrate the potential of technology transfer in this area.   The workshop will gather technology providers, industry executives, technology transfer officers, policy makers and financial intermediaries to share experiences and lessons learned. One of the key objectives is to discuss policy implications at all levels that could help accelerating the adoption of Nanotechnology by the European manufacturing industry. More informations: Download Locandina

Nanotechnology Transfer Day

26 Luglio 2018 - Lecce

CNR NANOTEC c/o Campus Ecotekne Siglato l’accordo lo scorso maggio tra CNR NANOTEC e Pairstech Capital Management, ha preso il via la collaborazione con PhD TT per la valutazione della ricerca

E’partita la collaborazione con PhD TT per la valorizzazione della ricerca sulla base dell’accordo siglato lo scorso Maggio tra CNR NANOTEC e Pairstech Capital Management, società di gestione patrimoniale che fornisce agli investitori istituzionali e privati un insieme di veicoli di investimento, al fine di valorizzare i risultati della ricerca svolta all'interno dell'Istituto.

Giovedì 19 Luglio dalle ore 11 alle ore 14 nella sede del CNR Nanotec di Lecce si è tenuto un incontro sul trasferimento tecnologico nel settore delle nanotecnologie applicate al settore biomedicale.

L’evento è stato organizzato dall’ufficio di Trasferimento Tecnologico del CNR Nanotec che ha inaugurato con questa giornata un ciclo di eventi mirato a presentare agli attori dell’ecosistema dell’innovazione nel settore delle nanotecnologie i vari modelli e alcune best practice di trasferimento tecnologico. In questa prima giornata il dott. Heber Verri e la dott.ssa Paola Urbani hanno presentato il nuovo modello di trasferimento tecnologico PhD TTãIndex Model.

PhD TT è una realtà italiana completamente indipendente specializzata in trasferimento tecnologico, è un acceleratore organizzato per il Go to Venture Practice, orientata al mondo delle Lifes Sciences.

PhD TT ha sviluppato un nuovo modello di trasferimento tecnologico: il PhD TT©INDEX MODEL dedicato alla generazione di valore dell'innovazione, focalizzato alla riduzione dei rischi delle opportunità di investimento a sostegno della ricerca.

I ricercatori intervengono attivamente nell'analisi iniziale di fattibilità e nella costituzione della futura società (start-up), con l'obiettivo di attrarre capitale di rischio utile a sostenere la fase del trasferimento tecnologico nella visione della "Research for go-to-market".

Il modello PhD TT nasce da un bisogno del mercato, quello di far dialogare due mondi estremamente diversi tra loro: il mondo della ricerca e il mondo degli investimenti.

PhD TT supporta tutte le attività in collaborazione con il TTO - CNR Nanotec con un team di lavoro esperto e grazie a un comitato scientifico-economico qualificato.

In occasione dell'evento del 19/7 u.s. al CNR Nanotec di Lecce, PHD TT ha presentato il proprio track record, dove si sono potuti valutare in dettaglio i casi di successo di intervento del PhD TT©INDEX MODEL.

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Disordered serendipity: a glassy path to discovery

A workshop in honour of Giorgio Parisi’s 70th birthday

September 19-21, 2018 - Roma

Sapienza University

With the occasion of celebrating Giorgio Parisi 70th birthday, the conference "Disordered serendipity: a glassy path to discovery" brings to Rome many among the world-leading experts in the field of complex systems. In order to properly represent the many fields of research where Giorgio Parisi gave a relevant contribution in his studies of disordered systems, the conference covers a broad spectrum of topics: from  fundamental and rigorous analysis of the statistical mechanics of disorder systems to applications in biology and computer science. These subjects are deeply interconnected since they are characterized by the presence of glassy behavior.