The F region of the ionosphere is home to the F layer of ionization, also called the Appleton-Barnett layer, after the English physicist Edward Appleton and New Zealander Miles Barnett. As with other ionospheric sectors, 'layer' implies a concentration of plasma (physics), while 'region' is the volume that contains the said layer. The F region contains ionized gases at a height of around 150-800 km above sea level, placing it in the Earth's thermosphere, a hot region in the upper atmosphere, and also in the heterosphere, where chemical composition varies with height. Generally speaking, the F region has the highest concentration of free electrons and ions anywhere in the atmosphere. It may be thought of as comprising two layers, the F1-and F2-layers.
The F-region is located directly above the E region (formerly the Kennelly-Heaviside layer) and below the protonosphere. It acts as a dependable reflector of HF radio signals as it is not affected by atmospheric conditions, although its ionic composition varies with the sunspot cycle. It reflects normal-incident frequencies at or below the critical frequency (approximately 10 MHz) and partially absorbs waves of higher frequency.
The F1 layer is the lower sector of the F layer and exists from about 150 to 220 km above the surface of the Earth and only during daylight hours. It is composed of a mixture of molecular ions O2+ and NO+, and atomic ions O+. Above the F1 region, atomic oxygen becomes the dominant constituent because lighter particles tend to occupy higher altitudes above the turbopause (at ~100 km). This atomic oxygen provides the O+ atomic ions that make up the F2 layer. The F1 layer has approximately 5 × 105 e/cm3 (free electrons per cubic centimeter) at noontime and minimum sunspot activity, and increases to roughly 2 × 106 e/cm3 during maximum sunspot activity. The density falls off to below 104 e/cm3 at night.