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Miniature Sandia sensors may advance climate studies
Date:4/10/2012

iniature sensor's simplicity means it could travel in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or as unmonitored cargo in atmospheric balloons. The poorest countries could afford to play a role in global climate data collection.

It has so many good features that one is tempted to ask, Do you want to drive it off the lot now or accept delivery at home?

Sandia researcher Mark Ivey is interested now. He oversees the operation of sounding balloons that carry sensors skyward for the Department of Energy in Oliktok Point and Barrow, Alaska. The miniature blimps, able to sample particles around which cloud droplets form, are tethered to winches that reel the soaring balloons back in. Getting sensors to Barrow a place no highway visits then into the air and back to a laboratory in the lower 48 makes weight and size a factor.

"Smaller, lighter is a big deal for us," Ivey said.

Manginell's team plans to submit an atmospheric sampling proposal this spring to NASA for something called "ground-truth measurement." NASA, he said, "has a ton of satellite data, more than they know what to do with," but the agency needs to use data from ground-based or airborne sensors that physically sniff the gases reported by satellites to calibrate remote instruments.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who need ground-truth data, have built systems with flask containers using conventional valves that at open flasks and then close them at specific altitudes. However, the flasks are big perhaps half a liter in size and heavy, and the valves they require may outgas, ruining the measurements, Manginell said.

Outgassing occurs when the material used for the container releases a gas of its own, contaminating the atmospheric gas trapped in the flask.

The Sandia system "would have 100 of these devices in a package that has a macrovalve on top," said Manginell. An altimeter sends an electrical pulse that opens the
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Contact: Neal Singer
nsinger@sandia.gov
505-845-7078
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
Source:Eurekalert  

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