This prototype innovation is a novel design that achieves very long, effective laser path lengths that are able to yield ppb (parts per billion) and sub-ppb measurements of trace gases. SLIMS can also accommodate multiple laser channels covering a wide range of wavelengths, resulting in detection of more chemicals of interest. The mechanical design of the mirror cell allows for the large effective path length within a small footprint. The same design provides a robust structure that lends itself to being immune to some of the alignment challenges that similar cells face.
By taking a hollow cylinder and by cutting an elliptically or spherically curved surface into its inner wall, the basic geometry of a reflecting ring is created. If the curved, inner surface is diamondturned and highly polished, a surface that is very highly reflective can be formed. The surface finish can be further improved by adding a thin chrome or gold film over the surface. This creates a high-quality, curved, mirrored surface. A laser beam, which can be injected from a small bore hole in the wall of the cylinder, will be able to make many low-loss bounces around the ring, creating a large optical path length.
The reflecting ring operates on the same principle as the Herriott cell. The difference exists in the mirror that doesn’t have to be optically aligned, and which has a relatively large, internal surface area that lends itself to either open air or evacuated spectroscopic measurements. This solid, spherical ring mirror removes the possibility of mirror misalignment caused by thermal expansion or vibrations, because there is only a single, solid reflecting surface. Benefits of the reflecting ring come into play when size constraints reduce the size of the system, especially for space missions in which mass is at a premium.
This work was done by David C. Scott, Kelly Rickey, Alexander Ksendzov, Warren P. George, and Abdullah S. Aljabri of Caltech; and Joel M. Steinkraus of Cal Poly for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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