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A Short-Range Distance Sensor with Exceptional LinearityA sensor has been demonstrated that can measure distance over a total range of about 300 microns to an accuracy of about 0.1 nm (resolution of about 0.01 nm). This represents an exceptionally large dynamic range of operation - over 1,000,000. The sensor is optical in nature, and requires the attachment of a mirror to the object whose distance is being measured. This work resulted from actively developing a white light interferometric system to be used to measure the depths of defects in the Space Shuttle Orbiter windows. The concept was then applied to measuring distance. The concept later expanded to include spectrometer calibration. In summary, broadband (i.e., white) light is launched into a Michelson interferometer, one mirror of which is fixed and one of which is attached to the object whose distance is to be measured. The light emerging from the interferometer has traveled one of two distances: either the distance to the fixed mirror and back, or the distance to the moving mirror and back. These two light beams mix and produce an interference pattern where some wavelengths interfere constructively and some destructively. Sending this light into a spectrometer allows this interference pattern to be analyzed, yielding the net distance difference between the two paths. The unique feature of this distance sensor is its ability to measure accurately distance over a dynamic range of more than one million, the ratio of its range (about 300 microns) to its accuracy (about 0.1 nanometer). Such a large linear operating range is rare and arises here because both amplitude and phase-matching algorithms contribute to the performance. The sensor is limited by the need to attach a mirror of some kind to the object being tracked, and by the fairly small total range, but the exceptional dynamic range should make it of interest.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Other - NASA Tech Brief
Simmons, Steven
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Youngquist, Robert
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
March 24, 2014
Publication Date
October 1, 2013
Publication Information
Publication: NASA Tech Briefs, October 2013
Subject Category
Man/System Technology And Life Support
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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