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26 April, 2006 - 15:26 By Staff Reporter

Global demand soaring for Herts hi-tech sensor

The University of Hertfordshire has been contracted to design an advanced laser-based tool to support research into climate change for one of the world’s leading atmospheric research aircraft.

Known as HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Air-borne Platform for Environmental Research), the £45.6m aircraft has been commissioned by the US University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) to serve the National Science Foundation’s environmental research needs for the next few decades.

It is the latest in an increasing number of requests being made by the worldwide research community for the state-of-the-art sensor technology coming out of Hertfordshire’s Science and Technology Research Institute (STRI).

Dr Richard Greenaway, software designer on the project, said: “We have had other enquiries from the US, Canada, and Europe for similar types of instrument.

“All in all, the next 12 months is going to be very busy for us!”

Developed under the working title SID (Small Ice Detector) version two, the instrument is being tailored to UCAR’s requirements and will be used to study microscopic water droplets and ice crystals in clouds, providing information to meteorologists to help them to make climate prediction models more accurate.

Dr Edwin Hirst, the principal designer of the instrument, said: “We have just had the Critical Design Review in Colorado and are aiming to deliver the final instrument to UCAR at the end of the year.

“One of the toughest challenges has been to meet all of the conditions to meet the air-worthiness requirements laid down by the US authorities.”

Professor Paul Kaye, project leader, said: “We had already developed instruments for the Met Office and other researchers in the UK to help them understand some of the processes that take place in clouds and how these ultimately affect our climate and potential global warming.

“UCAR scientists became aware of this work and asked us to design and build a new instrument for their use. It’s a significant step for us because the HIAPER aircraft is a very exciting development to be contributing to.”

Dr Greenaway, who works with the other researchers at Hertfordshire’s Particle Instruments Research Group within the STRI, said the growing interest in climate change was generating greater interest in the group’s technology and requests for ‘3rd generation’ probes were steadily coming in.

“We are building another probe that can look at the cloud particles in far greater detail than SID, which measures between one and 10 micrometres.

“There are three groups interested in the probe. Two are speculating or looking for funding while one German group does have backing.”

 

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