This work relates to the development of sensors that measure specific aerosol properties. These properties are in the form of integrated moment distributions, i.e., total surface area, total mass, etc., or mathematical combinations of these moment distributions. Specifically, the innovation involves two fundamental features: a computational tool to design and optimize such sensors and the embodiment of these sensors in actual practice. The measurement of aerosol properties is a problem of general interest. Applications include, but are not limited to, environmental monitoring, assessment of human respiratory health, fire detection, emission characterization and control, and pollutant monitoring. The objectives for sensor development include increased accuracy and/or dynamic range, the inclusion in a single sensor of the ability to measure multiple aerosol properties, and developing an overall physical package that is rugged, compact, and low in power consumption, so as to enable deployment in harsh or confined field applications, and as distributed sensor networks. Existing instruments for this purpose include scattering photometers, direct-reading mass instruments, Beta absorption devices, differential mobility analyzers, and gravitational samplers.

The family of sensors reported here is predicated on the interaction of light and matter; specifically, the scattering of light from distributions of aerosol particles. The particular arrangement of the sensor, e.g. the wavelength(s) of incident radiation, the number and location of optical detectors, etc., can be derived so as to optimize the sensor response to aerosol properties of practical interest. A key feature of the design is the potential embodiment as an extremely compact, integrated microsensor package. This is of fundamental importance, as it enables numerous previously inaccessible applications. The embodiment of these sensors is inherently low maintenance and high reliability by design.

The novel and unique features include the underlying computational underpinning that allows the optimization for specific applications, and the physical embodiment that affords the construction of a compact, durable, and reliable integrated package. The advantage appears in the form of increased accuracy relative to existing instruments, and the applications enabled by the physical attributes of the resulting configuration.

This work was done by Paul S. Greenberg and David G. Fischer of 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-18634-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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