Why Raman Spectroscopy on Mars?—A Case of the Right Tool for the Right Job

School of Engineering, Kingston University, London, United Kingdom.
Astrobiology (Impact Factor: 2.59). 02/2003; 3(3):565-79. DOI: 10.1089/153110703322610654
Source: PubMed


We provide a scientific rationale for the astrobiological investigation of Mars. We suggest that, given practical constraints, the most promising locations for the search for former life on Mars are palaeolake craters and the evaporite deposits that may reside within them. We suggest that Raman spectroscopy offers a promising tool for the detection of evidence of former (or extant) biota on Mars. In particular, we highlight the detection of hopanoids as long-lived bacterial cell wall products and photosynthetic pigments as the most promising targets. We further suggest that Raman spectroscopy as a fibre optic-based instrument lends itself to flexible planetary deployment.

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    • "Typically, a Raman spectrum can provide information on the nature of the molecules, their spatial arrangement and relative concentrations. The technique has been proposed for adoption in astrobiological applications, and as mentioned above for the forthcoming ExoMars mission (Vago et al., 2009) but important issues centre upon the technical advantages of different possible arrangements for the planned tasks: the sample form to be studied, the laser type and operational wavelength (Dickensheets et al., 2000; Ellery and Wynn-Williams, 2003; Popp and Schmitt, 2004; Villar et al., 2006; Tarcea et al., 2008; Fendrihan et al., 2009; Marshall and Marshall, 2010; Marshall et al., 2010). Indeed, Raman spectroscopy has several advantages that make the technique well-suited for this research, such as its ability to record spectra of micrometre-sized grains of inorganic (geological, minerals), organic, and biological materials. "
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    ABSTRACT: Raman spectroscopy is one of the techniques that is being advocated for adoption in astrobiology for the detection of extinct or extant life on planetary surfaces extraterrestrially. A discussion on the definition of the Raman spectroscopic limits of detection and the operational factors which influence the data observed is needed for the evaluation of the results. This research paper forms a starting point for the discussion of the meaning of detection limits of biomarker molecules – solids dispersed in solid matrices – and the consequences for astrobiological research as this will have implications on the analytical protocols and spectrometer design for remote field-operated spectrometers.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Planetary and Space Science
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    • "This instrument is functional for Astrobiology (Wynn-Williams et al. 1999, Ellery and Wynn-Williams 2003, Jehlika et al. 2010, Jorge-Villar and Edwards 2010, Vitek et al. 2010). It is a commonly used technique that provides useful information about the vibrational, rotational and other low-frequency modes of the systems under study, relying on the inelastic scattering of the monochromatic light used as excitation. "
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    ABSTRACT: Planned future exploration missions to the Jovian satellite Europa have a strong astrobiological motivation. Characterization of the potential habitability of the liquid water environments, and searching for life signals are the main astrobiological objectives of these missions. To meet these objectives specific strategies and instrumentation are required. Here we discuss some scenarios for the development of Europa potential biospheres. These scenarios are based on assumptions of the life similarity concept and knowledge about terrestrial life in extreme environments. Since the potential habitable environments on Europa are in the interior of the satellite it is not possibly to directly detect life. However, there are processes that link aqueous sub-surface environments with the near-surface environment, such as tectonism or magmatism. Therefore, by analysing endogenous materials that arise from the interior it is possible to make predictions about what is in the sub-surface. We propose some measurements and instrumentation for future missions to detect biosignatures on the upper layers of Europa, including the simple physico-chemical traces of metabolism to complex biomolecules or biostructures. Raman spectroscopy or biosensor technologies are the future for in situ exploration of the Solar System.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2011 · Advances in Space Research
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    • "Raman spectroscopy has shown to be a very sensitive method to investigate chemical compositions in various planetary and mineral samples (Ellery and Wynn-Williams, 2003; Edwards et al. 2003, Sharma, et. al., 2004, 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: We present Raman spectroscopy analysis on laboratory and field sample analysis on several expeditions. Our measurements in mineral and organic composition have demonstrated that both mineral and organic species in low concentrations can be identified with Raman spectroscopy with no sample preparations and without instrument probe contact to the samples. Our laboratory studies on cyanobacterial biomat, and Mojave Desert rocks have demonstrated the promising potential for Raman spectroscopy as a nondestructive, in situ, high throughput detection technique, as well as a desirable active remote sensing tool for future planetary and space missions.
    Full-text · Conference Paper · Jan 2009
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