Master theses projects

Below are topics available for Master’s thesis projects and shorter student projects at IRF. Completed projects can be found in the right menu.

Ion drift meter instrument design & prototype development

The ion drift meter is a space instrument that measures the 3-D ion drift velocity in the ionosphere. The working principle is straightforward: The ion currents coming through an aperture will be measured by multiply-segmented planer electrodes, the ratios of which provide the impinging direction of the bulk ion. With the help of spacecraft/rocket orbital motion, we can derive the ion bulk velocity.

The bulk ion drift velocity is a key parameter for understanding the ionosphere–thermosphere coupling in the upper atmosphere, where the momentum exchange between space and the atmosphere occurs.

The IRF/SSPT group will design, develop and implement IDM instruments for possible future missions, including terrestrial rocket missions and low-altitude spacecraft.

In addition to the Earth-based measurements, we aim to deploy Earth-like planetary ionospheres (e.g., Mars and Venus), outer planetary system, and interplanetary/interstellar probes. In this project, we will design an IDM instrument and develop a prototype.

The prototype will be tested and verified in a vacuum chamber. We also aim to operate the prototype in the real environment, possibly with a rocket experiment or small satellite (e.g., CubeSat).

The project includes a part of the following tasks:

  • Theoretical performance assessment
  • Performance analysis by computer simulation (possibly with GPU programming)
  • Mechanical design
  • Electrical design (incl. power system, frontend electronics, analog processing, etc.)
  • Testing and verification in the lab

Contact persons:
Yoshifumi Futaana,
Manabu Shimoyama,
Stas Barabash,

(Solar System Physics and Space Technology research programme)

Published in May 2022

Simulation of scattering characteristics of Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Simulating lidar signals is important for various kind of sensitivity studies In order to simulate realistic signals from PSCs scattering characteristics for various types of PSCs are required.

It is possible to calculate such characteristics based on measured size distributions and assumptions about particle shape.


  • Find information about measured size distributions and particle shapes from available literature.
  • Implement a loop over a given size distribution in an available programme to calculate Mueller matrix and phase function for a single particle using the T-matrix approach.
  • Calculate scattering characteristics for various size distributions and particle shape approximations.
  • Evaluate the sensitivity of scattering characteristics to various parameters of the size distribution.


  • Basic knowledge of a programming language; the code will be mostly in Fortran.
  • Some knowledge of physical processes in the atmosphere.

Contact person: Peter Voelger,

(Solar terrestrial and atmospheric research programme)

Published in March 2020