A spill-resistant vessel has been developed for dispensing an alkali-metal vapor. Vapors of alkali metals (most commonly, cesium or rubidium, both of which melt at temperatures slightly above room temperature) are needed for atomic frequency standards, experiments in spectroscopy, and experiments in laser cooling. Although the present spill-resistant alkali-metal dispenser was originally intended for use in the low-gravity environment of outer space, it can also be used in normal Earth gravitation: indeed, its utility as a vapor source was confirmed by use of cesium in a ground apparatus.

Molten Alkali Metal (or any other liquid, for that matter) does not pass through the outlet, no matter which way the vessel is tilted.

The vessel is made of copper. It consists of an assembly of cylinders and flanges, shown in the figure. The uppermost cylinder is a fill tube. Initially, the vessel is evacuated, the alkali metal charge is distilled into the bottom of the vessel, and then the fill tube is pinched closed to form a vacuum seal.

The innermost cylinder serves as the outlet for the vapor, yet prevents spilling by protruding above the surface of the alkali metal, no matter which way or how far the vessel is tilted. In the event (unlikely in normal Earth gravitation) that any drops of molten alkali metal have been shaken loose by vibration and are floating freely, a mesh cap on top of the inner cylinder prevents the drops from drifting out with the vapor. Liquid containment of the equivalent of 1.2 grams of cesium was confirmed for all orientations with rubbing alcohol in one of the prototypes later used with cesium.

This work was done by William Klipstein of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category. NPO-40481


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Spill-Resistant Alkali-Metal-Vapor Dispenser

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

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