Note: A miniature oscillating microbalance for sampling ice and volcanic ash from a small airborne platform

Martin Airey, R. Giles Harrison, Kerianne Nicoll, Paul Williams, Graeme Marlton

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A lightweight and low power oscillating microbalance for in situ sampling of atmospheric ice and volcanic ash is described for airborne platforms. Using a freely exposed collecting wire fixed at only one end to a piezo transducer, the instrument collects airborne materials. Accumulated mass is determined from the change in natural frequency of the wire. The piezo transducer is used in a dual mode to both drive and detect the oscillation. Three independent frequency measurement techniques are implemented with an on-board microcontroller: a frequency sweep, a Fourier spectral method, and a phase-locked loop. These showed agreement to ±0.3 Hz for a 0.5 mm diameter collecting wire of 120 mm long, flown to 19 km altitude on a weather balloon. The instrument is well suited to disposable use with meteorological radiosondes, to provide high resolution vertical profiles of mass concentration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)086108-086112
Number of pages4
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


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