A digital architecture has been implemented for a trace gas sensor platform, as a companion to standard analog control electronics, which accommodates optical absorption whose fractional absorbance equivalent would result in excess error if assumed to be linear. In cases where the absorption (1-transmission) is not equivalent to the fractional absorbance within a few percent error, it is necessary to accommodate the actual measured absorption while reporting the measured concentration of a target analyte with reasonable accuracy. This requires incorporation of programmable intelligence into the sensor platform so that flexible interpretation of the acquired data may be accomplished.

Several different digital component architectures were tested and implemented. Commercial off-the-shelf digital electronics including data acquisition cards (DAQs), complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and microcontrollers have been used to achieve the desired outcome. The most completely integrated architecture achieved during the project used the CPLD along with a microcontroller. The CPLD provides the initial digital demodulation of the raw sensor signal, and then communicates over a parallel communications interface with a microcontroller. The microcontroller analyzes the digital signal from the CPLD, and applies a nonlinear correction obtained through extensive data analysis at the various relevant EVA operating pressures. The microcontroller then presents the quantitatively accurate carbon dioxide partial pressure regardless of optical density.

This technique could extend the linear dynamic range of typical absorption spectrometers, particularly those whose low end noise equivalent absorbance is below one-part-in-100,000. In the EVA application, it allows introduction of a path-length-enhancing architecture whose optical interference effects are well understood and quantified without sacrificing the dynamic range that allows quantitative detection at the higher carbon dioxide partial pressures. The digital components are compact and allow reasonably complete integration with separately developed analog control electronics without sacrificing size, mass, or power draw.

This work was done by Paula Gonzales, Miguel Casias, Andrei Vakhtin, and Jeffrey Pilgrim of Vista Photonics, Inc. for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18730-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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