NASA scientists are exploring the use of an ultrafast laser machining technique that could be used in a variety of spaceflight applications. These include the welding of dissimilar substances, and drilling hair-sized pinholes in the materials used in spacecraft components.
The laser machining technique is well established in industry. It is used to create tiny features in a substrate. The work is accomplished using pulsed lasers, which produce a focused optical beam to selectively remove material from the substrate.
Compared to other mechanical machining techniques, laser machining enables low heat-deposition to the working piece. That means that instead of melting the targeted material - as, for example, traditional welding would - the focused beam just vaporises the material without heating the surrounding area.
A group of NASA's optical physicists are currently experimenting with ultrafast femto-second lasers at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The scientists have already demonstrated that it is possible to effectively weld glass to glass, and glass to copper using the ultrafast laser machining technique. The team also used the technique to drill microscopic size pinholes in different types of materials.
This team is now expanding the scope of their research to a broad range of materials commonly used in spaceflight instruments. These include metals such as aluminum, titanium, Kovar and Invar, and special types of glass, such as Zerodur and sapphire.
The scientists are now experimenting with these materials to see whether it is possible to bond bigger pieces of these materials using the ultrafast laser machining technique. Success in bonding dissimilar materials using laser machining technique could eventually eliminate the use of epoxies that can contaminate sensitive spacecraft components.
The team is also exploring the use of this technique in fabrication of photonic integrated circuits—the special type of circuits that are fabricated on a mixture of materials and use visible or infrared light for transferring information.
The Computing Technology Product Awards 2018 are coming!
Recognising the very best in technology talent, the Awards will recognise innovation and technology excellence across the range of mobility, software, infrastructure, security, cloud computing - and people.
To find out more, to enter and to reserve your table at the Awards on 30 November, check out our dedicated Computing Technology Product Awards website
This long-sought progenitor star was identified in an image captured by Hubble in 2007
Intel's neural network USB stick could bring AI to the masses
Dubbed Barnard's star B, newly discovered planet is believed to be rocky
Also, what's a USB stick?