Physical Sciences

Multifunction Imaging and Spectroscopic Instrument

There would be no repositioning for different observations of the same specimen. A proposed optoelectronic instrument would perform several different spectroscopic and imaging functions that, heretofore, have been performed by separate instruments. The functions would be reflectance, fluorescence, and Raman spectroscopies; variable-color confocal imaging at two different resolutions; and wide-field color imaging.

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Position-Finding Instrument Built Around a Magnetometer

A coarse indication of position is derived from a relatively inexpensive instrument. A coarse-positioning instrument is built around a three-axis magnetometer. The magnetometer is of a type that is made of inexpensive hardware and is suitable for use aboard spacecraft orbiting no more than 1,000 km above the surface of the Earth. A data processor programmed with suitable software and equipped with a central processing unit, random-access memory, programmable read-only memory, and interface circuitry for communication with external equipment are added to the basic magnetometer to convert it into a coarse-positioning instrument. Although the instrument was conceived for use aboard spacecraft, it could be useful for navigation on Earth under some circumstances.

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Improved Measurement of Dispersion in an Optical Fiber

The lower limit of measurability is extended. An improved method of measuring chromatic dispersion in an optical fiber or other device affords a lower (relative to prior such methods) limit of measurable dispersion. This method is a modified version of the amplitude-modulation (AM) method, which is one of the prior methods. In comparison with the other prior methods, the AM method is less complex. However, the AM method is limited to dispersion levels >160 ps/nm and cannot be used to measure the symbol of the dispersion. In contrast,the present modified version of the AM method can be used to measure the symbol of the symbol of the dispersion and affords a measurement range from about 2 ps/nm to several thousand ps/nm with a resolution of 0.27 ps/nm or finer.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Nanofluidic Size-Exclusion Chromatograph

This device would perform the functions of a much larger instrument. Efforts are under way to develop a nanofluidic size-exclusion chromatograph (SEC), which would be a compact, robust, lightweight instrument for separating molecules of interest according to their sizes and measuring their relative abundances in small samples. About as large as a deck of playing cards, the nanofluidic SEC would serve, in effect, as a “laboratory on a chip” that would perform the functions of a much larger, conventional, bench-top SEC and ancillary equipment, while consuming much less power and much smaller quantities of reagent and sample materials. Its compactness and low power demand would render it attractive for field applications in which, typically,it would be used to identify and quantitate a broad range of polar and nonpolar organic compounds in soil, ice, and water samples.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Briefs, TSP

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Lightweight, Low-CTE Tubes Made From Biaxially Oriented LCPs

CTEs can be tailored by tailoring biaxial orientations. Tubes made from biaxially oriented liquid-crystal polymers (LCPs) have been developed for use as penetrations on cryogenic tanks. ("Penetrations" in this context denotes feed lines, vent lines, and sensor tubes, all of which contribute to the undesired conduction of heat into the tanks.) In comparison with corresponding prior cryogenic-tank penetrations made from stainless steels and nickel alloys, the LCP penetrations offer advantages of less weight and less thermal conduction. An additional major advantage of LCP components is that one can tailor their coefficients of thermal expansion (CTEs). The estimated cost of continuous production of LCP tubes of typical sizes is about 1.27/ft (4.17/m) [based on 1998 prices].

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Using Redundancy To Reduce Errors in Magnetometer Readings

Fundamental laws of electromagnetism impose constraints that can be exploited. A method of reducing errors in noisy magnetic-field measurements involves exploitation of redundancy in the readings of multiple magnetometers in a cluster. By "redundancy" his meant that the readings are not entirely independent of each other because the relationships among the magnetic-field components that one seeks to measure are governed by the fundamental laws of electromagnetism as expressed by Maxwell ofs equations.

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Spaceborne Infrared Atmospheric Sounder

A report describes the development of the spaceborne infrared atmospheric sounder (SIRAS)—a spectral imaging instrument, suitable for observing the atmosphere of the Earth from a spacecraft, that utilizes four spectrometers to cover the wavelength range of 12 to 15.4 µm with a spectral resolution that ranges between 1 part per 900 and 1 part per 1,200 in wavelength. The spectrometers are operated in low orders to minimize filtering requirements. Focal planes receive the dispersed energy and provide a spectrum of the scene. The design of the SIRAS combines advanced, wide-field refractive optics with high-dispersion gratings in a solid-state (no moving parts), diffraction-limited optical system that is the smallest such system that can be constructed for the specified wavelength range and resolution. The primary structure of the SIRAS has dimensions of 10 by 10 by 14 cm and has a mass of only 2.03 kg.

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