The MSL rover, a robotised vehicle, will determine whether Mars is or has been able to support any kind of life. Among the instruments it contains are the Rover Environment Monitoring Station (REMS), which will measure air and ground temperature, atmospheric pressure, ultraviolet radiation and humidity, in addition to the speed and direction of the wind measured by the chip designed by the Spanish engineers. The details on this scientific contribution were recently published in the journal Planetary and Space Science.
Luis Castañer, coordinator of the Micro and Nano Technologies Research Group at the UPC which developed the piece, tells SINC that this chip “is more efficient in terms of energy than those previously developed, and silicon technology is being used for the first time for this application in space”.
Each silicon chip is 1.5 millimetres thick and includes three temperature-sensitive platinum components: One measures the temperature of the chip, the second heats it to some 25ºC above ambient temperature and the third controls the characteristics of the wind sensor. The chip also carries the names of its creators.
Hot wire anemometry was the principle used by the engineers to measure the wind. Castañer, a founding member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering (RAI), notes that wind had traditionally been measured by a technique in which a wire was heated and then the air cooled it, varying its temperature. This made it possible to establish a relationship with the speed of the air flow. “In the case of the chip, the hot point is not a wire, but instead a piece of silicon heated by a fine film that covers it and acts as the resistance to heat”, he says.
The Micro and Nano Technologies Research Group (MNT) has patented a system that makes it possible to calculate the magnitude of the wind and its direction on a plane using four chips on a plate on that same plane, while at the same time taking the ambient temperature as a reference. The temperature is measured by a fifth chip, identical to the other four.
Wind speed can be measured in 2D with this methodology, but the speed in 3D can be deduced by using as many plates as necessary. The REMS weather monitoring station uses 6 wind sensors, with 5 silicon chips each, located on the ends of two booms and separated by an angle of 120°.
The chips were manufactured at the MNT group’s Laboratorio de la Sala Blanca, which counts on collaboration from the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, the joint centre of the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), EADS Astrium Crisa (the company in charge of the industrial assembly of the station) and the Centro Nacional de Microelectrónica in Barcelona. Some tests were carried out in the wind tunnel at the University of Aarhus (Denmark).
The first principal researcher of the REMS project was Professor Luis Vázquez from the Complutense University of Madrid. This year, aeronautic engineer Javier Gómez Elvira from CAB, the centre responsible for the Martian weather monitoring station, as well as its principal contractor, took over.
The station has already incorporated the MSL rover, and is currently verifying its instruments under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California (USA) so as to have everything ready in the fall of 2009 when its launch is planned.
The MSL will carry out four types of research. First, it will study the biological potential of the environment, taking inventory of the chemical elements required for life and detecting the presence of organic compounds. It will also classify the geology and geo-chemical makeup of the region, analysing the composition of the planet’s surface and interpreting the processes that have formed and modified its rocks. The rover’s instruments will also be used to investigate surface radiation and some atmospheric processes- such as those that involve water- that may be relevant in determining if living beings could have existed on the red planet in the past.
SINC Team | alfa
Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark
Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering