Introduction The Olin College Mechanical Oscillator team is designing an oscillator setup for use by the X-Ray Spectroscopy (XRS) team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. It will be used to induce controlled vibrations in a super-cooled x-ray detector system so that the XRS team can determine whether it is feasible to use mechanical coolers for the detectors in the future. The final deliverable must be able to withstand cryogenic temperatures (between 1 and 4 Kelvin) and the vacuum necessary to maintain those temperatures, in addition to delivering basic operation requirements specified by NASA.

Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator
with Detector Housing

How and Why The XRS team at NASA detects x-ray emissions in the form of very small vibrations called phonons. The x-ray detectors see phonons as heat and, thus, must be kept extremely cold (about 50 milliKelvin) to be effective. Currently, the XRS team uses an Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator (ADR) to create a cryogenic environment. However, they are considering future use of mechanical coolers, which will invariably have some sort of vibration associated with their operation. The results of the Olin Mechanical Oscillator project will allow the XRS team to test whether external mechanical vibrations will significantly interfere with the accuracy of their research.

NASA is currently studying x-ray emissions because they provide valuable information about the composition and life cycles of distant stellar bodies. We have previously studied space by looking at what we could see with our own eyes, but some objects in space do not give off very much energy in the optical spectrum - black holes keep all of theirs from escaping! However, we are now able to detect and study other forms of energy that are able to travel, such as x-ray emissions.

bottom corner