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CfI Responsive Mode projects

April 2017 to March 2018
27 Nov 2017
STFC National Laboratories

We are pleased to summarise the currently awarded Responsive Mode projects in the Centre for Instrumentation.

Miniature coolers for CubeSat applications

£31,300 has been awarded to Steve Watson, UKATC (TD)

Small Scale Stirling Cooler

Figure 1: RAL 80K Small Scale Stirling Cooler for space applications (585g)
(Credit: STFC)

Observations at mid-far infrared wavelengths are difficult, if not impossible, from the ground. These are critical wavelengths regimes to; for example, study the birth of planetary systems around other stars, as well as to monitor our own planet in terms of the distribution of key atmospheric gases. The development of inexpensive orbital platforms, such as CubeSats, offers enormous opportunities in astronomy and Earth science. For example, they have the potential to be deployed in constellation-like formats to provide an effective “super-large” telescope, but can also be deployed in formation to monitor the entire globe.

This proposal focusses on one of the key enabling technologies required for operation of such platforms in the infrared part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Cryogenics systems are key for many detector systems, and developing a cheap, compact system that also has high efficiency, long lifetime and reliability, to cool such systems to below 100K (to maximise sensitivity) has been flagged as a major goal for organisations such as the European Space Agency. This activity will investigate the requirements and feasibility of developing miniature coolers for a variety of CubeSat applications.

Fast Plastics for Thermal Neutron Detection

£23,200 has been awarded to Sion Richards, RAL (TD)

Plastic scintillator

Figure 2: A plastic scintillator manufactured by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
(Credit: STFC)

STFC’s ISIS pulsed neutron source is an international science facility where neutrons are used to study a wide variety of materials. New detector technologies can improve the performance of the instruments at ISIS allowing reduced measurement times and higher quality data allowing for more, higher quality science to be performed.

A key requirement of the detectors used in ISIS is the capability to discriminate between detection events created by neutrons and those created by the γ-ray background caused by neutron interactions with matter. This new generation of plastic scintillators have significantly higher neutron sensitivity than the previous generation of plastics and detection events from neutrons generate a different signal to those created by γ-rays. We will investigate how well these plastics perform and refine our simulation capabilities to understand how they could be used in future position sensitive instruments.

Combined Hexitec and CZT

£90,000 has been awarded to Matt Wilson, RAL (TD)

The HEXITEC detector has been used in many projects for applications ranging from material science to solar physics. One HEXITEC detector module is 2x2cm and can be closely butted on 3 sides or arranged in a roof tile way to make larger sized arrays. Combining lots of detector modules requires a large data bandwidth and the ability to synchronise multiple detectors. In this project we will develop the building blocks to readout multiple HEXITEC modules in parallel using the FEM II board developed by STFC. The demonstrator developed in this project will be directly applied to projects to use HEXITEC in large scientific instruments.

Ultra-Precision Diamond Turning for Optics and High Power Laser Targets

£20,000 has been awarded to Chris Spindloe, RAL (CLF)

High Power Laser targets and precision optics have very tight tolerances on the form and the roughness of the interaction surfaces. Whether an intense laser beam interacts with the internal wall of a hohlraum to create x-rays or a structured surface is ablated to produce a plasma that propagates and interacts with the outside media there are a large number of high profile experiments that require components with <25nm surface roughness. In addition, there are a number of optical components including mirrors, lenses, and other reflection elements in the mid-IR range and also in detectors that are used by RAL space that would greatly benefit from a capability on site that can deliver high quality components.

A single point diamond turning development program to understand the complex surface patterning by using a wide range of metrology facilities is essential for the full exploitation of SPDT for the STFC community.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000