TRACeR III-V (NASA-enhanced X-ray fluorescence XRF scanner)

Award Year 

The Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and KeyMaster Technologies, Inc., have collaborated to enhance the company’s X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanners. During the effort, a vacuum capability for the scanners was developed. Prior to this, all available XRF scanners detected only heavier metals because air impedes the detection of weak-return x-rays from lighter ones. When a scanner is operated in a vacuum, however, the detection range is extended to elements of lower atomic numbers& (more) mdash;such as aluminum and silicon. High-strength aluminum alloys now can be analyzed easily. Silicon, a major contaminant to some processes, now can be detected before a process is begun, possibly eliminating weld or adhesion problems. Exotic alloys can be evaluated before being placed in service where lives depend on them. Substandard bolts and fasteners can be evaluated at receiving and never allowed to enter operation. Through a Space Act Agreement, MSFC and KeyMaster Technologies have collaborated to make ground-breaking enhancements to the company’s XRF scanners. The resulting product, the TRACeR III-V, is approximately the size of a portable drill and weighs less than 5 pounds. The instrument has opened the door to new markets, and the product is available commercially around the globe. KeyMaster sold two devices abroad before the product was even announced in any news releases. NASA has become the first to benefit from the handheld device. Already in use in the Space Shuttle program, the technology takes the chemistry lab to the shop floor and to the launch pad, something that was not practical to do before with large products such as reusable solid rocket motors. And with the next-generation vehicles being Shuttle-derived, this technology will continue to benefit the space program for the foreseeable future. A major new development involves the technology being used in a testing program for high-efficiency vacuums and extraction cleaners. Equipment that passes these tests, which are being used to set carpet/rug cleaning equipment and chemistry performance standards for the entire industry, will receive the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval and certification from the Space Foundation. (less)