Research Fellows Directory
Dr Elin McCormack
Science and Technology Facilities Council
I am interested in applying spectroscopic techniques to measure electric fields in the atmosphere. Typically, atmospheric scientists record electric fields by sending a probe through the region they are studying, but this approach provides only a limited amount of detail in understanding, for example, the electrification process in thunderstorms. My research aims to introduce a new technique for remote observation which can detect electric fields by exploiting the sensitivity of certain polar molecules to their electric environment. This sensitivity is provided by the so-called Stark effect in which certain spectral lines shift in wavelength in response to an external electrical field. Measuring these shifts to a high accuracy using infrared spectroscopy will allow the magnitude of the electric field to be determined. Such a technique should allow atmospheric electric fields to be mapped out with high spatial and temporal resolution, improving our understanding of weather systems and lightning generation mechanisms. Remote sensing may also allow us to detect electric fields in other planets in our solar system, a capability that we are currently lacking.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)