The figure depicts an apparatus that pulverizes brittle material by means of a combination of ultrasonic and sonic vibration, hammering, and abrasion. The basic design of the apparatus could be specialized to be a portable version for use by a geologist in collecting powdered rock samples for analysis in the field or in a laboratory. Alternatively, a larger benchtop version could be designed for milling and mixing of precursor powders for such purposes as synthesis of ceramic and other polycrystalline materials or preparing powder samples for x-ray diffraction or x-ray fluorescence measurements to determine crystalline structures and compositions. Among the most attractive characteristics of this apparatus are its light weight and the ability to function without need for a large preload or a large power supply: It has been estimated that a portable version could have a mass <0.5 kg, would consume less than 1 W·h of energy in milling a 1-cm 3 volume of rock, and could operate at a preload <10 N.

ImageThe basic design and principle of operation of this apparatus are similar to those of other apparatuses described in a series of prior NASA Tech Briefs articles, the two most relevant being "Ultra- sonic/Sonic Drill/Corers With Inte- grated Sensors" (NPO-20856), Vol.25, No.1 (January 2001), page 38 and "Ultrasonic/Sonic Mechanisms for Deep Drilling and Coring" (NPO-30291), Vol. 27, No.9 (September 2003), page 65. As before, vibrations are excited by means of a piezoelectric actuator, an ultrasonic horn, and a mass that is free to move axially over a limited range. As before, the ultrasonic harmonic motion of the horn drives the free-mass in a combination of ultrasonic harmonic and lower-frequency hammering motion. In this case, the free-mass is confined within a hollow cylinder that serves as a crushing chamber, and the free-mass serves as a crushing or milling tool.

The hammering of the free-mass against a material sample at the lower end of the chamber grinds the sample into powder in a relatively short time. The restriction of the free-mass to axial motion only makes the grinding very efficient. The free-mass can be fabricated to have teeth on its lower face to enhance the grinding effect. Optionally, there can be a hole at the bottom of the chamber covered with a sieve to tailor the size distribution of the powder leaving the crushing chamber.

This work was done by Stewart Sherrit, Xiaoqi Bao, Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Benjamin Dolgin, and Zensheu Chang of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Machinery/Automation category. NPO-30682