This proposal seeks to develop an Aerosol Separator (AS) as the gaseous sample inlet for any mass spectrometer operating in planetary atmosphere containing suspended aerosols, including liquid, icy, and metallic particles in corrosive gaseous environments. The main role of the AS separator is to set apart heavier particles from the gas inertially by using the NanoJet (NJ) technology. The NJ technology has been shown to have a very high transmission efficiency (essentially 100%) when operated as a printing technology and recent computational results show conceptually that this transmission efficiency is translatable to the AS application as well. The NJ technology can print continuously for periods greater than 8 hours with no indication of clogging. The printing application using very high particle density in comparison to typical atmospheric particle density. This Phase I project will seek to demonstrate that the NJ technical advantage for aerosol concentration and particle/gas separation can be beneficial to the larger AS atmospheric sampling apparatus.
The completed AS apparatus will be tolerant to changes in atmospheric pressure of up to three orders of magnitude while performing high-yield segregation of aerosols from the dominant gas phase at variable altitudes. When attached to a mass spectrometer, it will enable in-situ real-time studies of chemical composition of aerosols at parts-per-billion sensitivity and at 20 full mass spectra per second. The primary target of this new technology is the mysterious UV absorber suspended in acidic aerosols in Venus’ clouds, but it is applicable for aerial and surface missions to Titan and Mars and subsonic probe missions to the ice giants. Again, the Phase I project will focus on developing and demonstrating that the NJ technology will provide a significant advantage over existing technologies for the AS application.
The aerosol separator (AS) will enable measurement of the aerosol particle composition suspended in a wide variety of planetary atmospheres including atmospheres where previously overwhelming amounts of gas prevented aerosol particulate analysis. The adaptive AS will continue to operate at optimal transmission despite changes in the outside pressure by controlling the conductance of the piezoelectric aperture. The AS will enable aerial platform mission to Venus, Mars and Titan as well as shallow entry probes to Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Development of the NanoJet particle separator will impact IDS' current aerosol printer business by allowing IDS to further develop the aerosol concentrator technology that is key to IDS' industrial print business.