NASA Funds Brimrose Plan to Make Mercurous Halide Crystals in Space

Sparks, MD–The Brimrose Technology Corporation (BTC) is receiving Phase I SBIR funding for its proposal to explore the possibility of making novel mercurous halide crystals on the International Space Station (ISS). BTC scientists believe the micro-gravity environment on the ISS will greatly reduce the buoyancy effect in the convection flow, which is inhibiting successful mercurous halide production on Earth.        

BTC believes it is the only company in North America that now makes the three mercurous halide crystals: mercurous chloride (Hg2Cl2) mercurous bromide (Hg2Br2) and mercurous iodide (Hg2I2).           

The crystals are not commercially available; however, they are believed to have significant commercial value.  They have the potential to offer higher sensitivity in radiation devices, including the identification of multiple types of radiation, which makes them of great interest to both the medical and defense communities.  They also are suitable for making acousto-optic devices such as acousto-optic tunable filters, modulators and Q switches..

“On earth, the convection flow inside the growth ampoules is disturbed by the buoyancy effect, which is generated due to gravitational force,” according to the winning proposal. “These defects can be eliminated when growing crystals in environments where the gravitational force is extremely small. Brimrose is proposing to design and develop a crystal growth system that can be placed in ISS for growth of very high quality mercurous halide crystals.” 

“The main objective of the proposed research effort is to modify and improve the crystal growth system using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations,” according to the BTC team, which is led by Drs. Joo-Soo Kim and Priyanthi Amarasinghe.  “We will be running the CFD software and trying to acquire the required thermal profile of the growth heating chamber for micro-gravity conditions. Then, we will design the new dual crystal growth furnace system for the ISS operation. In addition, we propose to produce ultra-pure mercurous halide source materials as nutrient material to grow mercurous halide crystals on the ISS.” 

The mission also will explore the possibility of commercially processing various materials, including single crystals, in low earth orbit (LEO). 

For additional information about the award or Brimrose Technology, please contact David Chaffee at 410-472-7070 or davidc@brimrose.com.

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