Professor Christine Charles

Professor and Head of Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion Laboratory, FAA FAPS
ANU College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Plasma Physics; Fusion Plasmas; Electrical Discharges 020204
  • Aerospace Engineering 0901
  • Astronomical And Space Sciences 0201
  • Nanofabrication, Growth And Self Assembly 100706
  • Physical Chemistry Of Materials 030304
  • Engineering Instrumentation 099902
  • Theory And Design Of Materials 030307
  • Electrical And Electronic Engineering 0906

Research interests

My main research interest has been the investigation of the fundamental processes leading to ion acceleration in plasma systems both in the laboratory and in astrophysics, and the investigation of the numerous applied components that can be derived from it:

  • Development of the Pocket Rocket propulsion module for CubeSats nano-satellites
  • Plasma thrusters and interplanetary space travel (inventor of the Helicon Double Layer Thruster)
  • AU03 QB50 CubeSat space mission (Launch from International Space Station in March 2017)
  • Development of plasma jets for biological aplications (wound healing)
  • Nano-structure materials for hydrogen fuel cells (A French-Australian collaboration with the University of Orléans)
  • Development of plasma models and plasma sources for applications to the microelectronics industry (etching, deposition, sputtering of materials) and the emerging field of bio-materials (plasma polymers)
  • Hydrogen-free optical waveguides for photonics (plasma deposition of silicon dioxide)



Professor Christine Charles is Head of the Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion laboratory at the Australian National University (ANU). Born in Brittany (France), she has a French Engineering degree in applied physics, a PhD in plasma physics, a French Habilitation thesis in materials science and an ANU Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz. For the past twenty five years, she has been working on experimental expanding plasmas and their applications to astrophysical plasmas, electric propulsion, microelectronics, optoelectronics and hydrogen fuel cells. She is the inventor of the Helicon Double Layer Thruster, a new electrode-less magneto-plasma thruster for space use. She was the 2009 Australian Institute of Physics’ Women in Physics Lecturer, a Finalist in both the 2011 Australian Innovation Challenge and the 2011 World Technology Awards, and a TEDx Canberra speaker in 2014 ( She was recently awarded the 2015 Women in Industry Excellence in Engineering Award. She has published over 200 articles in various international peer-reviewed journals and her scientific excellence has been recognised by her Fellowship of the American Physical Society in 2013 and her Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science in 2015. She actively popularises her science on ABC Catalyst, Discovery Channel, radio and public lectures. She plays keyboard jazz with her group, Harmonic Propulsion, that performs around Canberra. To keep up her strength she canoes down long rivers, cycles and bushwalks. 



Return to top

Updated:  14 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers