Tech Briefs

Compact Focal Plane Assembly for Planetary Science

New fabrication methods were incorporated to produce an ultra-lightweight and compact radiometer.

A compact radiometric focal plane assembly (FPA) has been designed in which the filters are individually co-registered over compact thermopile pixels. This allows for construction of an ultralightweight and compact radiometric instrument. The FPA also incorporates micromachined baffles in order to mitigate crosstalk and low-pass filter windows in order to eliminate high-frequency radiation.

Compact metal mesh bandpass filters were fabricated for the far infrared (FIR) spectral range (17 to 100 microns), a game-changing technology for future planetary FIR instruments. This fabrication approach allows the dimensions of individual metal mesh filters to be tailored with better than 10-micron precision. In contrast, conventional compact filters employed in recent missions and in near-term instruments consist of large filter sheets manually cut into much smaller pieces, which is a much less precise and much more labor-intensive, expensive, and difficult process.

Filter performance was validated by integrating them with thermopile arrays. Demonstration of the FPA will require the integration of two technologies. The first technology is compact, lightweight, robust against cryogenic thermal cycling, and radiation-hard micromachined bandpass filters. They consist of a copper mesh supported on a deep reactive ion-etched silicon frame. This design architecture is advantageous when constructing a lightweight and compact instrument because (1) the frame acts like a jig and facilitates filter integration with the FPA, (2) the frame can be designed so as to maximize the FPA field of view, (3) the frame can be simultaneously used as a baffle for mitigating crosstalk, and (4) micron-scale alignment features can be patterned so as to permit high-precision filter stacking and, consequently, increase the filter bandwidth and sharpen the out-of-band rolloff.

The second technology consists of leveraging, from another project, compact and lightweight Bi0.87Sb0.13/Sb arrayed thermopiles. These detectors consist of 30-layer thermopiles deposited in series upon a silicon nitride membrane. At 300 K, the thermopile arrays are highly linear over many orders of magnitude of incident IR power, and have a reported specific detectivity that exceeds the requirements imposed on future mission concepts.

The bandpass filter array board is integrated with a thermopile array board by mounting both boards on a machined aluminum jig.

This work was done by Ari Brown, Shahid Aslam, Wei-Chung Huang, and Rosalind Steptoe-Jackson of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16704-1

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Compact Focal Plane Assembly for Planetary Science (reference GSC-16704-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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