This device takes advantage of the centrifugal forces that are generated when a coring bit is rotated, and a granular sample is entered into the bit while it is spinning, making it adhere to the internal wall of the bit, where it compacts itself into the wall of the bit. The bit can be specially designed to increase the effectiveness of regolith capturing while turning and penetrating the subsurface. The bit teeth can be oriented such that they direct the regolith toward the bit axis during the rotation of the bit. The bit can be designed with an internal flute that directs the regolith upward inside the bit. The use of both the teeth and flute can be implemented in the same bit. The bit can also be designed with an internal spiral into which the various particles wedge.

In another implementation, the bit can be designed to collect regolith primarily from a specific depth. For that implementation, the bit can be designed such that when turning one way, the teeth guide the regolith outward of the bit and when turning in the opposite direction, the teeth will guide the regolith inward into the bit internal section. This mechanism can be implemented with or without an internal flute.

The device is based on the use of a spinning coring bit (hollow interior) as a means of retaining granular sample, and the acquisition is done by inserting the bit into the subsurface of a regolith, soil, or powder. To demonstrate the concept, a commercial drill and a coring bit were used. The bit was turned and inserted into the soil that was contained in a bucket. While spinning the bit (at speeds of 600 to 700 RPM), the drill was lifted and the soil was retained inside the bit. To prove this point, the drill was turned horizontally, and the acquired soil was still inside the bit. The basic theory behind the process of retaining unconsolidated mass that can be acquired by the centrifugal forces of the bit is determined by noting that in order to stay inside the interior of the bit, the frictional force must be greater than the weight of the sample.

The bit can be designed with an internal sleeve to serve as a container for granular samples. This tube-shaped component can be extracted upon completion of the sampling, and the bottom can be capped by placing the bit onto a corklike component. Then, upon removal of the internal tube, the top section can be sealed. The novel features of this device are:

  • A mechanism of acquiring and retaining granular samples using a coring bit without a closed door.
  • An acquisition bit that has internal structure such as a waffle pattern for compartmentalizing or helical internal flute to propel the sample inside the bit and help in acquiring and retaining granular samples.
  • A bit with an internal spiral into which the various particles wedge.
  • A design that provides a method of testing frictional properties of the granular samples and potentially segregating particles based on size and density. A controlled acceleration or deceleration may be used to drop the least-frictional particles or to eventually shear the unconsolidated material near the bit center.

This work was done by Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Mircea Badescu, and Stewart Sherrit of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47606

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Acquisition and Retaining Granular Samples via a Rotating Coring Bit

(reference NPO-47606) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the September, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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