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  Gold Foil Collector

The Genesis gold foil is a bulk solar wind collector, integrating fluences from all three of the wind regimes. Pyrolytic extraction of small foil samples at Minnesota yielded He fluences, corrected for backscatter, in good agreement with measurements by on-board spacecraft instruments, and He/Ne elemental ratios close to those implanted in collector foils deployed on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions. Isotopic distributions of He, Ne and Ar are under study. Pyrolysis to temperatures above the gold melting point generates nitrogen blanks large enough to obscure the solar-wind nitrogen component. An alternative technique for nitrogen and noble gas extraction, by room-temperature amalgamation of the gold foil surface, will be discussed. Ne and Ar releases in preliminary tests of this technique on small foil samples were close to 100% of the amounts expected from the high-temperature pyrolysis yields, indicating that amalgamation quantitatively liberates gases from several hundred angstroms deep in the gold, beyond the implantation depth of most of the solar wind. Present work is focused on two problems currently interfering with accurate nitrogen measurements at the required picogram to sub-picogram levels: a higher than expected blank likely due to tiny air bubbles rolled into the gold sheet during fabrication, and the presence of a refractory hydrocarbon film on Genesis collector surfaces (the "brown stain") that, if left in place on the foil, shields the underlying gold from mercury attack. We have found, however, that the film is efficiently removed within tens of seconds by oxygen plasma ashing. Potential nitrogen contaminants introduced during the crash of the sample return canister are inert in amalgamation, and so are not hazards to the measurements.

Reference: Schlutter, D. J., Pepin, R. O., Extraction of Solar Wind Nitrogen and Noble Gases From the Genesis Gold Foil Collector

Gold Foil Kidney
Pre-Launch Gold Foil
Gold foil kidney being cleaned during ALTO phase of mission
Gold foil pre-launch button
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Curator: Aimee Meyer
Updated: November 2009

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