A proposed method of characterizing microphones and other pressure and force sensors would exploit the temporally varying forces of impingement of amplitude-modulated light beams from inexpensive laser diodes. What makes the method likely to be practical is the surprising fact that these forces, albeit small, are nevertheless large enough to enable quantification of the noise floors, sensitivities, and frequency responses of many modern pressure sensors. The time-averaged force of impingement of a pulsed beam of light on a surface is given by F = SDP/c, where S ranges from 1 for a totally absorptive (black) to 2 for a perfectly reflective surface, D is the pulse duty cycle, P is the peak power of the beam, and c is the speed of light. Hence, if one knows S, D, and P, it may be possible to determine the absolute sensitivity of the sensor. Even if one does not know one or more of these parameters, it should be possible to determine the relative sensitivities of different sensors by measuring their responses to the same modulated beam, or to determine the relative frequency response of a given sensor by measuring its output while sweeping the modulation frequency.

This work was done by Robert C. Youngquist of Kennedy Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2002 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Technology Programs and Commercialization Office, Kennedy Space Center, (321) 867-4879. Refer to KSC-12183.