The development of the Small Deflection Energy Analyzer (SDEA) charged-particle spectrometer for energy and angle distributions responds to a longstanding need to measure the wind velocity vector in Earth’s thermosphere, and to obtain the ion-drift vector in the ionosphere. The air and ions above 120 km are endowed with bulk velocities and temperatures just like air near the ground, but with separate spatial and temporal variations. It is important to understand these not only for study of the physics and chemistry of the Sun-Earth connection, but also for spacecraft orbit predictions, and communications through the ionosphere. The SDEA consists of a pair of parallel conducting plates separated by a small distance, with an entrance slit on one end, and an exit slit on the other. A voltage applied to these plates develops an electric field between the plates, and this field deflects ions passing through it. If an ion has too little energy, it will strike one of the plates. If it has too much, it will strike the back wall. An ion with the amount of energy being searched for will have its trajectory bent just enough to exit the back slit.

The SDEA units are compact, rectangular, and operate with low voltages. The units can be built up into small arrays. These arrays could be used either to widen the field of view or to sharpen an existing one. This approach can also be used to obtain angular distributions in two planes simultaneously, thus cutting down the ion source power requirements in half. This geometry has enabled a new mass-spectrometer concept that can provide miniaturized mass spectrometers for use in industrial plants, air-pollution monitoring, and noxious-gas detection.

This work was done by Federico A. Herrero of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, contact the Goddard Innovative Partnerships Office at (301) 286-5810. GSC-15610-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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