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24 May 2012 Laser-ablation optical-cavity isotopic spectrometer for Mars rovers
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A concept of a compact device for analyzing key isotopic composition in surface materials without sample preparation is presented. This design is based on an advanced modification of Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). First, we developed Laser Ablation Molecular Isotopic Spectrometry (LAMIS) that involves measuring isotope-resolved molecular emission, which exhibits significantly larger isotopic spectral shifts than those in atomic transitions. Second, we used laser ablation to vaporize the sample materials into a plume in which absorption spectra can be measured using a tunable diode laser. The intrinsically high spectral resolution of the diode lasers facilitates measurements of isotopic ratios. The absorption sensitivity can be boosted using cavity enhanced spectroscopy. Temporal behavior of species in a laser ablation plasma from solid samples with various isotopic composition was studied. Detection of key isotopes associated with signs of life (carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen) as well as strontium and boron in laser ablation plume was demonstrated; boron isotopes were quantified. Isotope-resolved spectra of many other molecular species were simulated. The experimental results demonstrate sensitivity to 86Sr, 87Sr, and 88Sr with spectrally resolved measurements for each of them. It is possible to measure strontium isotopes in rocks on Mars for radiogenic age determination. Requirements for spectral resolution of the optical measurement system can be significantly relaxed when the isotopic abundance ratio is determined using chemometric analysis of spectra.
© (2012) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Alexander A. Bol'shakov, Xianglei Mao, Christopher P. McKay, and Richard E. Russo "Laser-ablation optical-cavity isotopic spectrometer for Mars rovers", Proc. SPIE 8385, Sensors and Systems for Space Applications V, 83850C (24 May 2012);

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