Gravitational Effects on Water in Regolith

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2010

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Robert Hay


The goal of this experiment is to analyze gravitational effects on water in regolith. The system will provide information that can be used to detect water in planetary regolith during future NASA missions. The team will perform AC impedance measurements on separate soil samples with a common grain size and precise water content within a micro-gravity environment. For each sample, electrical impedance data will be collected over a range of known frequencies to establish a relationship between impedance, frequency, water content, and gravity. The system will incorporate a commercial precision component analyzer and a two probe sample apparatus to perform electrical impedance spectroscopy. Two probes interface the soil-water sample through the bottom of a sealed sample container. The impedance analyzer applies 1 VAC across the electrodes over a range of frequencies. From this voltage and measured current, the impedance of the sample is determined via the analyzer. A 3-axis accelerometer and thermocouple will interface with the system program through a USB data acquisition board to allow for gravitational acceleration and ambient temperature data to be recorded throughout the flight. System engineering is required for this experiment to fly successfully. As EE majors our primary job is to design the interface between the sample container and impedance analyzer. This interface consists of a circuit board to connect to the containers’ two probes and rigid coaxial cables to connect to the analyzer. We are also responsible for the design and implementation of all power delivery and electrical safety systems for the experimental apparatus, and are working in conjunction with the CS majors to implement the acceleration and temperature sensors.

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