NASA | The QWIP Detector; an Infrared Instrument

Uploaded by NASAexplorer on 16.08.2012

All objects emit infrared radiation,
and the characteristics of the infrared radiation
are primarily dependent on the temperature of the object.
One of the unique features of QWIP technology is the ability
to what we call "band gap engineer."
And that is we can spectrally tune to the QWIP
detector to respond to certain wavelengths. One of the steps in
developing a flight instrument, there's really a sequence of steps you
have to go through. Obviously, you are going to develop it and test in the lab.
But then, the next step is to really take it to the field and test it.
And the step after that is to try and get it
into an airplane and test it there. I mean, these are all small
steps that are necessary to qualify it
to be launch worthy. This process can really take many years!
We look for applications, and many of them are science
applications where our cameras can be tested on the ground.
One such application is we've collaborated with the U.S. Geological
Survey. They have great interest in trying to find caves on
Mars and one of the features we think that a cave
might exhibit is the cave entrance, the opening.
We expect, since it is sort of tied to very deep in the ground,
to have sort of a stable temperature and by
doing that, we can watch the thermal contrast
of the cave change relative to the environment from day time
to night times. So, we've sort of verified that this would be a
good technique perhaps, to find life. So, we have to
figure out how to locate caves, before we send probes
to look for life and this is an application.
In order to convince people that that technology
was mature enough for a space flight mission.
We convinced them by showing them our ONE MILLION-pixel array
and then they felt confident that the three hundred thousand-
pixel array, you know, was a pretty low risk endeavor.
So this latest development for the
Landsat Data Continuity Mission, the instrument
is called TIRS - the Thermal Infrared Sensor. We are interested
in wavelengths that are between ten and thirteen microns.
So, you know, my hope is that someday
this will find it's way into an environment where
it will be useful medically,
to look for thermal pollution in rivers,
monitoring food spoilage, residual hot spots
after forest fires, pollution,
um, obviously looking at volcanoes.
Development over the years that we have been doing, ultimately led
to the validation of this technology for a
NASA space flight mission. That's a very hard thing to do!
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