Sampling cores requires the controlled breakoff of the core at a known location with respect to the drill end. An additional problem is designing a mechanism that can be implemented at a small scale that is robust and versatile enough to be used for a variety of core samples. This design consists of a set of tubes (a drill tube and an inner tube) and a rolling element (rolling tooth). An additional tube can be used as a sample tube. The drill tube and the inner tube have longitudinal holes with the axes offset from the axis of each tube. The two eccentricities are equal. The inner tube fits inside the drill tube, and the sample tube fits inside the inner tube.

The Rolling-Tooth Design of the core breakoff and retention mechanism (left), and the assembled parts (right).
While drilling, the two tubes are positioned relative to each other such that the sample tube is aligned with the drill tube axis and core. The drill tube includes teeth and flutes for cuttings removal. The inner tube includes, at the base, the rolling element implemented as a wheel on a shaft in an eccentric slot. An additional slot in the inner tube and a pin in the drill tube limit the relative motion of the two tubes. While drilling, the drill assembly rotates relative to the core and forces the rolling tooth to stay hidden in the slot along the inner tube wall. When the drilling depth has been reached, the drill bit assembly is rotated in the opposite direction, and the rolling tooth is engaged and penetrates into the core. Depending on the strength of the created core, the rolling tooth can score, lock the inner tube relative to the core, start the eccentric motion of the inner tube, and break the core. The tooth and the relative position of the two tubes can act as a core catcher or core-retention mechanism as well. The design was made to fit the core and hole parameters produced by an existing bit; the parts were fabricated and a series of demonstration tests were performed.

This invention is potentially applicable to sample return and in situ missions to planets such as Mars and Venus, to moons such as Titan and Europa, and to comets. It is also applicable to terrestrial applications like forensic sampling and geological sampling in the field.

This work was done by Mircea Badescu, Donald B. Bickler, Stewart Sherrit, Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Xiaoqi Bao, and Nicolas H. Hudson of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47354

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Document cover
Rolling-Tooth Core Breakoff and Retention Mechanism

(reference NPO-47354) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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