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Meet the teams: Dynamics

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ESA / Education / Spin Your Thesis!

The Dynamics team is composed of two PhD and one Master student from the University of Glasgow. Their goal is to determine the effect of gravity on drilling in granular material. In this experiment the team will study the conditions of ultrasonic vibration required to penetrate granular material with reduced force.

Drilling in granular material using ultrasonic vibration in hypergravity conditions

University University of Glasgow
Endorsing professor Patrick Harkness
University of Glasgow
Research assistant Kevin Worrall University of Glasgow
ELGRA mentor Francesc Suñol
UPC – Technical University of Catalonia-BarcelonaTech
Team David Firstbrook, Philip Doherty, Ryan Timoney
Dynamics team
Dynamics team

Exploration missions to Mars and other planetary bodies often rely on penetrators or drills that can access the subsurface, as this allows the lander or rover to perform tests on materials that have not been subjected to the same harsh environments at the surface. However these tools can face a number of issues in these conditions, such as lower gravity and low power availability. A lower gravity leads to a lower weight-on-bit (WOB) available, often resulting in inefficient drilling as the spacecraft cannot supply a sufficient overhead weight. Maximising the scientific potential of a mission requires more complex instruments and processes, which all required power. Small landers or rovers are often powered by solar cells due their lightweight nature, but are limited in power output.

Dynamics team experiment
Dynamics team experiment

Ultrasonically assisted penetration has been shown to lower both weight and power requirements, and understanding this process more could lead to further benefits. Gravity can alter the composition and structure of sand, which in turn can have drastic effects on the penetration capabilities. These experiments will investigate the effectiveness of ultrasonic penetration through granular material at high levels of gravity, establishing the optimum amplitude for balancing weight reduction and power consumption.

This information could potentially be used to design improved planetary penetration tools that require less power and overhead weight, as well as seeding the understanding of the interaction of granular material with direct high-amplitude ultrasonics.

Read the final experiment report here.