Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Space & Planetary Sciences (MS)

Degree Level



Space & Planetary Sciences


Vincent Chevrier

Committee Member

John Dixon

Second Committee Member

Adriana Potra


Earth sciences, Pluto, Simulation chambers, Surface simulatons


In light of the exciting new discoveries being made by the New Horizons team, more data on Pluto is available than ever before. However, with the increase in recovered data, there is now a need for laboratory data to interpret it. Laboratory simulation of these conditions and subsequent testing of materials and samples therein is now possible and necessary to understand what has been observed. To do these simulations, a vessel that can achieve low temperatures and high vacuum is required. The scope of this work presented here was to design, build, and test a chamber that could perform these simulations of Pluto’s surface.

Given the parameters of temperature and pressure, a chamber was constructed to simulate the conditions on the surface of Pluto. This chamber can reach and maintain the 30 K to 50 K temperatures of the surface. Pressure can be dropped to approximately ten microbars, which is equivalent to the pressure found on the surface. An atmosphere of dominantly nitrogen can be maintained and other gases can be introduced for testing. These gases can be condensed as ice and analyzed by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Custom gas mixtures are capable of being made. During experiments, images and video can be recorded.

These components and processes have been tested and performed over the course of experiments implemented in the Keck laboratory at the University of Arkansas. This chamber is versatile and can be modified using preexisting, open points of attachment to add new devices for other experimental purposes. Given its capabilities, it is an ideal vessel for use in experiments of surface conditions of Pluto and other Kuiper Belt Objects.