A simple optical setup has been devised to enable safe viewing of the arc and measurement of the interelectrode gap in a process in which carbon nanotubes are produced in an arc between a catalyst-filled carbon anode and a graphite cathode. This setup can be used for visually guided manual positioning of the anode to maintain the interelectrode gap at a desired constant value, possibly as a low-technology alternative to the automatic position/voltage control described in "Automatic Control of Arc Process for Making Carbon Nanotubes" (MSC- 23134), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol.28, No.3 (March 2004), page 51. The optical setup consists mainly of lenses for projecting an image of the arc onto a wall, plus a calibrated grid that is mounted on the wall so that one can measure the superimposed image of the arc. To facilitate determination of the end point of the process, the anode is notched, by use of a file, at the end of the filled portion that is meant to be consumed in the process. As the anode is consumed and the notch comes into view in the scene projected onto the wall, the process operator switches off the arc current.

This work was done by Carl D. Scott of Johnson Space Center and Sivaram Arepalli of GB Tech Inc. For further information, contact the Johnson Commercial Technology Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23131