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Membrane based thermoelectric sensor array for space debris detection

: Haenschke, Frank; Kessler, Ernst; Ihring, Andreas; Bunte, Karl Dietrich; Herbst, Christian; Mohaupt, Matthias; Fichna, Torsten; Hagedorn, Daniel; Meyer, Hans-Georg


Pham, K.D. ; Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers -SPIE-, Bellingham/Wash.:
Sensors and Systems for Space Applications VII : 5–6 May 2014, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Bellingham, WA: SPIE, 2014 (Proceedings of SPIE 9085)
ISBN: 978-1-6284-1022-8
Paper 90850C, 9 pp.
Conference "Sensors and Systems for Space Applications" <7, 2014, Baltimore/Md.>
Conference Paper
Fraunhofer IOF ()

As manmade space debris in the low earth orbit becomes an increasing risk to space missions, which could even result in total mission loss, it has become even more critical to have detailed knowledge of the properties of these particles like the mass, the velocity and the trajectory. In this paper, we present a newly designed, highly sensitive impact detector array with 16 pixels for space debris analysis. The thermopile sensor array, which was developed in the project, consists of 16 miniaturized multi-junction thermopile sensors made by modern thin-film technology on Si wafers. Each thermopile sensor consists of 100 radially arranged junction pairs formed from evaporated antimony and bismuth thin films. The centrally located active (hot) junctions comprise the active area of 1 mm². The output e.m.f. of the sensor is proportional to the temperature difference between the active and the reference junctions. The thermopile requires no cooling and no bias voltage or current for operation. It generates no 1/f noise but only the thermal resistance (Nyquist) noise. The sensor can be used for DC and low frequency AC measurements. The impact energy of micro sized particles is measured by a calorimetric principle. This means that the kinetic energy of the particle is converted into heat by hitting the absorbing foil, which is glued on the surface of the membrane area. This setup in combination with a preceded velocity detector allows the measurement of the most interesting particle quantities mass, velocity and trajectory.