Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 1, 53–75, 2012
Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 1, 53–75, 2012

Research article 22 May 2012

Research article | 22 May 2012

Performance of thermal conductivity probes for planetary applications

E. S. Hütter and N. I. Kömle E. S. Hütter and N. I. Kömle
  • Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz, Austria

Abstract. This work aims to contribute to the development of in situ instruments feasible for space application. Commercial as well as custom-made thermal sensors, based on the transient hot wire technique and suitable for direct measurement of the effective thermal conductivity of granular media, were tested for application under airless conditions. In order to check the ability of custom-made sensors to measure the thermal conductivity of planetary surface layers, detailed numerical simulations predicting the response of the different sensors have been performed. These simulations reveal that for investigations under high vacuum conditions (as they prevail, e.g. on the lunar surface), the derived thermal conductivity values can significantly depend on sensor geometry, axial heat flow, and the thermal contact between probe and surrounding material. Therefore, a careful calibration of each particular sensor is necessary in order to obtain reliable thermal conductivity measurements. The custom-made sensors presented in this work can serve as prototypes for payload to be flown on future planetary lander missions, in particular for airless bodies like the Moon, asteroids and comets, but also for Mars.