Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Eric Mehiel


Research was performed to improve the procedures for testing performance parameters of vapor cells for a nuclear-magnetic-resonance gyroscope. In addition to summarizing the theoretical infrastructure of the technology, this research resulted in the development and successful implementation of new techniques to characterize gyro cell performance.

One of the most important parameters to measure for gyro performance is the longitudinal spin lifetime of polarized xenon atoms in the vapor cell. The newly implemented technique for measuring these lifetimes matches results from the industry standard method to within 3.5% error while reducing the average testing time by 76% and increasing data resolution by 54%. The vapor cell test methods were appended with new software to expedite the analysis of test data and to investigate more subtle details of the results; one of the two isotopes of xenon in the cells tends to exhibit troublesome second-order effects during these tests due to electric-quadrupole coupling, but now the added analysis capabilities can accurately extract relevant results from such data with no extra effort. Some extraneous lifetime measurement techniques were explored with less substantial results, but they provided useful insight into the complex workings of the gyro cell test system.

New criteria were established to define the signal to noise ratio on a consistent basis from cell to cell across various parameters such as cell volume, temperature, and vapor pressure. A technique for measuring gas pressures inside the sealed cells helped link cell performance to cell development processes. This led to informed decisions on filling and sealing methods that consistently yielded cells with better performance in the last few months of this work. When this research began, cells with xenon lifetimes over ten seconds were rare in our lab; by the end, anything under 30 seconds was a disappointment. Not only did the test procedures improve, but so did the parameters being tested, and quite significantly at that. At the same time, many new avenues for continued progress have been opened; the work presented here, while instrumental, is only the beginning.