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Stable isotope laser spectrometer for exploration of Mars
Planetary and Space Science (1998)
  • Todd B. Sauke, San Jose State University
  • J. F. Becker
On Earth, measurements of the ratios of stable carbon isotopes have provided much information about geological and biological processes. For example, fractionation of carbon occurs in biotic processes and the retention of a distinctive 2–4% contrast in 13 C / 12 C between organic carbon and carbonates in rocks as old as 3.8 billion years constitutes some of the firmest evidence for the antiquity of life on the Earth. We have developed a prototype tunable diode laser spectrometer which demonstrates the feasibility of making accurate 13 C / 12 C and 15 N / 14 N in situ isotopic ratio measurements on Mars. This miniaturized instrument, with an optical path length of 10 cm, should be capable of making accurate and measurements, Gas samples for measurement are to be produced by pyrolysis using soil samples as small as 50 mg. Measurements of 13 C / 12 C, 18 O / 16 O and 15 N / 14 N, and have been made to a precision of better than 0.1% and various other isotopes are feasible. This laser technique, which relies on the extremely narrow emission linewidth of tunable diode lasers (<0.001 cm−1) has favorable features in comparison to mass spectrometry, the standard method of accurate isotopic ratio measurement. The miniature instrument could be ready to deploy on the 2003 or other Mars lander missions.
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Todd B. Sauke and J. F. Becker. "Stable isotope laser spectrometer for exploration of Mars" Planetary and Space Science Vol. 46 (1998)
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