Engineering

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Engineering

The SHRG specializes in developing innovative technologies for measuring space plasma. This includes mass composition spectrometers, specialized electronics, high voltage power supplies, and novel components to make flight hardware more lightweight and robust.

Facilities

The University of Michigan Mass Spectrometry Lab is operated under the direction of the Solar and Heliospheric Research Group and works in partnership with the Space Physics Research Lab to develop, fabricate, test, and calibrate hardware for spaceflight missions and other innovative applications. The laboratory, housed on the first floor of the Space Research Building on the University of Michigan’s North Campus, houses several vacuum chambers ranging from a small glass bell jar to large stainless steel chambers with multiple vacuum ports. The vacuum chambers are available for prototype testing and instrument calibration at pressures as low as 10-8 Torr. Ion beams are used with energies up to 30 keV and include mass filtering capabilities. A Hydrogen lamp is used for tests of UV suppression, and facilities for vibration and thermal testing are also available on site.

  • A person wearing a labcoat in a lab next to a metal device

Hardware Projects

The solar wind is a stream of plasma that flows continually out from the Sun in all directions. It is composed primarily of protons and electrons but there is also a very small amount of helium and other heavier elements such as oxygen, carbon, and iron. By studying the density, velocity, and charge

The SHRG specializes in developing innovative technologies for measuring space plasma. This includes mass composition spectrometers, specialized electronics, high voltage power supplies, and components to make flight hardware more capable, lightweight, and robust. Engineering in the Mass Spectrometry lab covers all stages of development, from initial simulations and conceptual design to the final flight calibrations. Some of the recent projects include:

Diagram of FIPS machine
  • The Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS), which was designed, built, tested, and calibrated by the SHRG in collaboration with SPRL for use on the MESSENGER mission. It provides ion composition for elements ranging from H to Ar and plasma energy distribution measurements (50 eV/e – 20 keV/e) in Mercury’s magnetosphere. The instrument includes an electrostatic analyzer and time-of-flight telescope, and an electronics package comprising a TOF board, analog and digital processing boards, and high-voltage power supplies. FIPS was revolutionary for its light and compact hardware (less than 1.5 kg) and innovative design.
  • An optimized three-dimensional linear-electric-field time-of-flight analyzer uses an innovative field-shaping design to increase the mass resolution without increasing the instrument size or complexity. Ions that enter the sensor generate secondary electrons that are focused and isolated within the instrument, allowing a measurement of the time of flight of the ion to a high degree of accuracy. Integrated timing electronics were developed to consolidate parts and provide impact position and time of flight information on a single chip.
  • The development of nanoscale freestanding transmission gratings that allow particles to pass through, but impede the transmission of UV light. These gratings will allow our sensors to measure the signals of rare material in space without the high background levels that UV photons can generate.
  • A new operating mode for quadrupole mass spectrometers that substantially improves the mass resolution without modifying the design or increasing the power consumption.