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ABOVE: New findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. Above: New findings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. Using CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious recurring slope lineae (RSL), are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts only when the dark features were relatively wide. When viewed at the same locations after the RSL recede, they detected no hydrated salt. “… now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. MDL provided the curved gratings essential for the performance of CRISM.

Optical Components

The Microdevices Laboratory develops electron-beam lithography techniques to fabricate unique nanostructures and optics that enable JPL instruments to perform novel measurements and achieve unmatched performance.

A variety of JPL flight and research projects rely on our capability to fabricate special-purpose components for NASA and non-NASA instruments. We have developed nano patterning processes for fabricating both binary-layered and grayscale surface-relief structures in a variety of polymers, dielectrics, metals, and substrate materials. This allows creation of nearly arbitrary transmissive and reflective diffractive optics such as blazed gratings, lenses, and computer-generated holograms, for wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to long-wave infrared.

Further, we have developed custom e-beam calibration techniques, substrate mounting fixtures, and pattern preparation software to allow fabrication of these diffractive optics on non-flat (convex or concave) substrates with several millimeters of height variation. This has enabled the fabrication of high-performance convex and concave diffraction gratings for Offner- and Dyson-type imaging spectrometers that have been used for many airborne and spaceborne instruments.

Current Projects