I’ve been involved in a number of projects aimed at keeping dust off camera sensors. Now I’ve been involved in one where the camera is used as a sensor – to measure dust.
XCAM has developed an innovative approach to monitoring levels of dust and other particulate matter in cleanroom environments. In a project for the European Space Agency (ESA), they have developed a monitor based on a camera sensor left open to the environment, with computer-controlled lighting designed to highlight the tiny particles as they land. The advantages over conventional systems include the provision of continuous, quantitative and interpretive information over days, months and years. Particle size information is used to generate an overall particle fall-out level (relating to various international standards), and individual particles are assigned a class according to shape characteristics. ESA is keen to use the system to monitor dust levels as they assemble spacecraft, and the system may be developed further to monitor levels of debris in flight.
I was responsible for designing and implementing the software for the system. This involved architectural design, fundamental image analysis code, algorithm design, a multi-threaded acquisition and analysis architecture capable of handling multiple monitors simultaneously, and the user interface. Developers at XCAM will continue to enhance the system and to prepare a version for commercial applications; I will continue to advise them.