The Planetary Atmospheres Minor Species Sensor (PAMSS) is an intracavity laser absorption spectrometer that uses a mid-infrared quantum cascade laser in an open external cavity for sensing ultra-trace gases with parts-per-billion sensitivity. PAMSS was flown on a balloon by Near Space Corporation from Madras OR to 30 km on 17 July 2014. Based on lessons learned, it was modified and was flown a second time to 32 km by World View Enterprises from Pinal AirPark AZ on 8 March 2015. Successes included continuous operation and survival of software, electronics, optics, and optical alignment during extreme conditions and a rough landing. Operation of PAMSS in the relevant environment of near space has significantly elevated its Technical Readiness Level for trace-gas sensing with potential for planetary and atmospheric science in harsh environments.
The Planetary Atmospheres Minor Species Sensor (PAMSS) is an ultra-trace gas sensor. This paper reports its transition from a Technical Readiness Level of 4 (TRL4) to TRL 5 and an established path forward to TRL6. This report describes tests of PAMSS in chambers that simulate a balloon flight to 30 km. Lessons learned inform a number of improvements, which are being implemented for a balloon flight planned for June 2014.
We have invented a novel photodetector by mating a surface plasmon resonance coupler with a graphene field effect transistor. The device enables wavelength selectivity for spectral sensing applications. Surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) are generated in a 50 nm thick Ag film on the surface of a prism in the Kretschmann configuration positioned 500 nm from a graphene FET. Incident photons of a given wavelength excite SPPs at a specific incidence angle. These SPP fields excite a transient current whose amplitude follows the angular resonance spectrum of the SPP absorption feature. Though demonstrated first at visible wavelengths, the approach can be extended far into the infrared. We also demonstrate that the resonant current is strongly modulated by gate bias applied to the FET, providing a clear path towards large-scale spectral imagers with locally addressable pixels.
We experimentally demonstrate a structured thin film that selectively absorbs incident electromagnetic waves in discrete bands, which by design occur in any chosen range from near UV to far infrared. The structure consists of conducting islands separated from a conducting plane by a dielectric layer. By changing dimensions and materials, we have achieved broad absorption resonances centered at 0.36, 1.1, 14, and 53 microns wavelength. Angle-dependent specular reflectivity spectra are measured using UV-visible or Fourier spectrometers. The peak absorption ranges from 85 to 98%. The absorption resonances are explained using the model of an LCR resonant circuit created by coupling between dipolar plasma resonance in the surface structures and their image dipoles in the ground plane. The resonance wavelength is proportional to the dielectric permittivity and to the linear dimension of the surface structures. These absorbers have application to thermal detectors of electromagnetic radiation.
Patterning of gold-black infrared absorbing films by stencil lithography and hardening by polymer infusion is reported. Gold black nano-structured films are deposited through a thin metal shadow mask in a thermal evaporator in ~400 mTorr pressure of inert gas, followed by ethyl cyanoacrylate fuming through the same mask to produce rugged IR absorptive patterns of ~100 micron scale dimensions. Infrared absorptivity is determined by transmission and reflectivity measurements using a Fourier spectrometer and infrared microscope. Results indicate that the optimized hardening process reduces the usual degradation of the absorptivity with age. This work has potential application to infrared array bolometers.
A mid-infrared intracavity laser absorption spectrometer based on an external cavity multi-mode quantum cascade laser
is combined with a scanning Fabry-Perot interferometer is used as tunable narrow band transmission filter to analyze the
laser emission spectrum. Sensitivity as a trace gas detector at 8.1 micron wavelengths has been demonstrated based on a
weak water vapor line at an absorption coefficient of 1 x 10-5 cm-1. For molecules of reasonably strong absorption cross section (10-17 cm2), this corresponds to a detection limit of 40 ppb.
Conducting polymers are potentially useful materials in sensor applications. Polyaniline is one of the
most promising of these materials due to high conductivity and plasma frequencies as high as the mid-infrared.
The application of this material is still limited because of low conductivity. In this paper, we
chemically prepared a composite of co-doped polyaniline with hydrochloric acid and MSA (methane
sulfonic acid) in aqueous solution with both colloidal and nano-graphite. Solutions of the composite
material were prepared in m-cresol and NMP (N-mthyle-2-pyrrolidone), which are common organic
solvents. This approach resulted in material with conductivity higher than either intrinsic polyaniline or
graphite alone. The solution of the composite was spin coated on suitable substrates. The thicknesses of
the films were measured using atomic force microscope (AFM). Fourier transform infrared spectra
(FTIR) and micro-Raman spectra were collected to confirm the composition and determine the infrared
thickness. Surface plasmon resonances for grating patterns of this composite material were calculated
using experimental determined infrared (IR) ellipsometry data. The goal is to identify a material which
has potential application for surface plasmons resonance sensing with high sensitivity and selectivity in