NASA/Olin Thermal Stress Analysis


The Summer of 2006 marks the third summer for which bright and enterprising Olin students remained on campus to work on the NASA project. We feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of this group and to have had this invaluable, real-world, problem solving experience. To kick off the summer, we visited the Goddard Space Flight Center, where our advisor Steve Holt served as Director of Space Sciences. Upon our arrival, we met with four NASA astrophycisists who presented us with problems to solve over the course of the summer. We are thrilled to have worked on projects that are useful to the scientists.

The goal of our project was to model the thermal stress of superconducting transition edge X-ray microcalorimeters. More specifically, we developed a stress map of one pixel for the condition resulting from cooling the pixel from 300K to 4K. We did this in order to see how much stress variation exists at operating temperature. Stress maps for a selection of pixel configurations were completed.

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Meet the Team

Mark Cavolowsky, Bryn Hollen, Peter Massari and Rayona Young are engineering students at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, who were among those selected for the NASA/Olin Summer Program. Their mentor for the summer was NASA astrophysicist Dr. Caroline Kilbourne.

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Our Work

For modeling purposes, a physical model of the sensor was constructed in both SolidWorks and COMSOL. The Solidworks model was useful in that it served as a guide for the model constructed in COMSOL, utilizing the 2D mesh extrude technique. The stress of the sensor due to temperature change was then modeled in COMSOL Structural Mechanics.

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If you have any questions or comments with regards to our project, please do not hesitate to contact any of the team members at or e-mail our project manager, Bryn Hollen . Thank you for your interest in our program!

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