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University-made monitoring device flies to Europe for research, display research

Jan. 31, 1997

By Tamara Waite

Lariat Reporter

A unique monitoring device designed and constructed by environmental studies students and faculty has returned to the Glasscock Energy Research Center after a lengthy trip to Europe.

The device, an upper atmosphere dust environmental monitor, was built four years ago to conduct measurements of various characteristics of dust particles in the upper atmosphere, said Dr. Merle Alexander, environmental studies professor.

It was attached to the bottom of the Egret, a high-altitude airplane specially designed by E Systems in Greenville.

The plane flew to Europe at altitudes above 50,000 feet while the monitor filtered and collected micron-sized particles of atmospheric debris. Measurements of the frequency, size and charge of the particles were recorded by the monitor and then analyzed with a computer.

'Both students and faculty contributed to the design of this unique project,' Alexander said.

Dr. Dudley Burton, environmental studies department chairman, said that the department is actively involved in studying environmental processes related to air through innovative projects such as this one.

While abroad, both the plane and the monitoring device were featured in the Paris Air Show for their technological merit.

The device was returned to the department at the end of last semester. The collected particles can be analyzed for radioactivity and the monitoring device can now be used as a prototype for similar dust particle studies conducted at lower altitudes.

'I am confident that in the future this device will serve as a valuable engineering model for this type of further investigation,' Alexander said.

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