Research Fellows Directory
Dr Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence
University of Southampton
Miniature micromachined sensors open new possibilities for terrestrial and planetary exploration. They promise high performance in a compact and robust package. In particular, miniature sensors allow for a large number of sensors to be deployed and return a high density of measurements from a large area in space and time. This opens up significant new possibilities in the areas of Earth observation and planetary science: in-situ sensing in an atmosphere or remotely from small spacecraft, where mass, power and cost are limiting factors, will give detailed data with large coverage. The new instrument being developed drives all these factors down by taking a usually large instrument - a radiometer - and miniaturizing it using a technique called micromachining, while, most importantly, incorporating an in-situ calibration so not compromising the usefulness of the data.
The Radiation Budget is given by the energy balance between the source - the incoming energy from the sun - and the ultimate sink - both the outgoing longwave (thermal infrared radiation to space) and the reflected shortwave energy in the Earth-atmosphere system or other planetary bodies. The distribution of energy in a planet’s atmosphere plays a governing role in climate as it determines the temperature, weather, chemistry and circulation which are all vital for showing how an atmosphere works. Obtaining the energy balance is thus crucial for studies of climate, providing comparisons to other planets and thereby a broader context for understanding our own planet.
The miniature radiometer directly measures in-situ the radiative balance of planets by monitoring over a wide range of wavelengths with two sensors - one pointing up and one pointing down. The major advantage of the miniature instrument is not as a compliment to conventional larger instruments but as introducing a new paradigm of sensors with a large number of small probes obtaining many measurements over a large area in space and time.
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