Photo Acoustic Technology

Ideas Made Real:

  • sub-micron SRB debris mapping detector.

About the Project:

Photo Acoustic Technology was a short-term contract to help develop a super-fine debris detection system for NASA’s Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB). As part of the SRB’s refurbishment process the casing’s inside diameter needed to be cleaned completely of any remaining fuel – burned or unburned.

The objective of the device developed was to confirm that the casings were 100% free of any remaining debris – even sub-micron debris. This was accomplished by placing our device on the end of a robotic arm so that it could methodically scan every square millimeter of the casing. If you expose a metal surface to very high intensity Ultra-Violet light then any material that is not part of the base material will generate a very small electrical current in the nano-amp range. This reaction presents some interesting challenges as the voltages needed to power the UV lamp were in the 3KV range and had to coexist in very close proximity to the nano-amp detection circuitry.