Opto/Mechanical Design

Our mechanical group is responsible for the physical design and construction of our field instruments. Instrument designs are taken from conception through design, analysis, fabrication, assembly and integration onto the research platform. The aircraft environment is rather unforgiving, with vibration and wide temperature swings, factors that make it extremely challenging to make precise and accurate scientific measurements.

The scientific requirements of particular measurements present their own mechanical challenges. For our water vapor instruments, for example, extensive analysis and modeling of the air flow through the instruments was necessary in order to minimize any contamination from the walls. For our carbon flux instrument, the sensitive wind sensors needed to be mounted well forward of nose in order to measure in unperturbed air.

Designing for research aircraft always involves designing to reduce weight and size, since instrument space is limited and weight can impact the number of instruments that can fly or the range or altitude the plane can attain. We tackle these challenges in a variety of ways: removing excess metal, replacing metal with composite materials, obtaining newer and smaller components, etc.