NASA's Miniaturized Spectrometer-on-a-Chip

"This is a close-up view of the "spectrometer-on-a-chip" technology that could dramatically reduce the size of spectrometers in the future. (Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn) - The Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) is big. It's powerful and it discovered, among other things, that Saturn's mysterious moon Enceladus was one of the very few worlds in the solar system that radiated several gigawatts of heat into space, primarily along prominent fractures dubbed "tiger stripes." If a team of technologists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., succeeds, however, scientists in the future won't observe these far-flung worlds with instruments the size of dishwashers. Rather, they will make their discoveries with dramatically smaller, more efficient models whose critical components fit onto a silicon wafer and do not require moving parts to operate -- unlike the breadbox-size components found inside the Goddard-developed CIRS, which flew on the flagship Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. "The Holy Grail is reducing the number of moving parts, which will allow us to build lighter, smaller instruments," said team member John Allen. "The smaller the device, the better. That's where the power of our effort really begins to take off." More

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.