A diode-laser-based spectrometer has been developed for measuring concentrations of gases and is intended particularly for use in analyzing and monitoring combustion processes under microgravitational conditions in a drop tower or a spacecraft.

This instrument is also well suited for use on Earth in combustion experiments and for such related purposes as fire-safety monitoring and monitoring toxic and flammable gases in industrial settings.

Of the gas-sensing spectrometers available prior to the development of this instrument, those that were sensitive enough for measuring the combustion gases of interest were too large, required critical optical alignments, used far too much electrical power, and were insufficiently rugged for use under the severe conditions of spacecraft launch and space flight. In contrast, the present instrument is compact, consumes relatively little power, and is rugged enough to withstand launch vibrations and space flight. In addition, this instrument is characterized by long-term stability, accuracy, and reliability.

The diode laser in this spectrometer is operated in a wavelength-modulation mode. Different gases to be measured can be selected by changing modular laser units. The operation of the laser is controlled by customized, low-power electronic circuitry built around a digital signal-processor board. This customized circuitry also performs acquisition and analysis of data, controls communications, and manages errors.

This work was done by Joel A. Silver of Southwest Sciences, Inc., for Glenn Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center, Commercial Technology Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135.

Refer to LEW-17546-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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