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Life in the Lab - People in the Lab
06.17.2009 4:45 PM
Julie Castillo

By Julie Castillo
Planetary Ices

Life in the Lab

First things first, the Cassini Project has posted a very nice feature about our activities in the lab. Observations by the Cassini-Huygens Mission were the inspiration behind the development of JPL Ice Physics Lab. That wonderful mission has brought so many questions about the evolution of satellites, the role of tidal heating in icy satellites, the chemistry of the Saturnian subnebula, the nature and dynamics of the cryoflows-like features observed at the surface of Titan by the Cassini RADAR Cassini RADAR, and so much more.

On the right you can find a picture of some of the lab folks I will frequently refer to on this this blog as it tells the story of our team's progress with solving the mysteries of ice properties.

Folks in the Lab

From left: Mathieu Choukroun, our ice preparation expert and clathrate specialist, Fang Zhong, who first implemented the Instron compression system and his student Bryan Gonzalez who developed parts of the system, myself, Martin Barmatz our manager, and Joe Young, who put together the Instron in its current version as you can see it in the back. Behind us you can see our 500-lbs sweetie enclosed in its insulation cage. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL).

Also below is the picture of the famous glaciologist Hermann Engelhardt from Caltech Ice Lab, who is teaching us the secrets of the preparation of super clean water ice.

glaciologist Hermann Engelhardt

The samples we got last week were great. The monocrystalline ice samples made by Hermann were as clean as only Hermann can get them. Also we started the production of polycrystalline ice using a press developed by Mathieu and Joe following the help of our colleague and friend Christine McCarthy. Only 5% porosity after the first, short, test (about 90 minutes). We can do better by pressing on that poor thing for longer. Otherwise, nothing broke, all parts and pieces fitted together right away, it never works so well, usually!! The funny part is that we could not remove the sample from the press, how frustrating ;-) After several hours of contemplation, we did retrieve it, and here it is:

Picture of ice sample with microscope

This is a thin section observed with polarized light and macro-lens, obtained in the cold room (Credit: F. Rogez)

Something we love to do so much is characterizing our samples with the Cryo Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope at JPL. The next post will be all about observations of our new sample with that technique.

Stay tune!

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