An instrument that functions mainly as a particle-image velocimeter provides data on the sizes and velocities of flying opaque particles. The instrument is being developed as a means of characterizing fluxes of wind-borne dust particles in the Martian atmosphere. The instrument could also adapted to terrestrial use in measuring sizes and velocities of opaque particles carried by natural winds and industrial gases. Examples of potential terrestrial applications include monitoring of airborne industrial pollutants and airborne particles in mine shafts. The design of this instrument reflects an observation, made in field research, that airborne dust particles derived from soil and rock are opaque enough to be observable by use of bright field illumination with high contrast for highly accurate measurements of sizes and shapes. The instrument includes a source of collimated light coupled to an afocal beam expander and an imaging array of photodetectors. When dust particles travel through the collimated beam, they cast shadows. The shadows are magnified by the beam expander and relayed to the array of photodetectors.

Inasmuch as the images captured by the array are of dust-particle shadows rather of the particles themselves, the depth of field of the instrument can be large: the instrument has a depth of

field of about 11 mm, which is larger than the depths of field of prior particle-image velocimeters. The instrument can resolve, and measure the sizes and velocities of, particles having sizes in the approximate range of 1 to 300 μm.

For slowly moving particles, data from two image frames are used to calculate velocities. For rapidly moving particles, image smear lengths from a single frame are used in conjunction with particlesize measurement data to determine velocities.

This work was done by Brent Bos of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, contact the Goddard Innovative Partnerships Office at (301) 286-5810. GSC-15230-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

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

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