Chemistry Department Seminar: Chesley Lecturer Roger Wiens
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How to Develop an Analytical Chemistry Technique for Martians Official/Unofficial Story
The remote-sensing chemistry instruments on NASA's Mars rovers use a revolutionary technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). It uses focused laser pulses to ablate material from rocks and soils near the rover. The resulting flashes provide the atomic emission optical spectrum of the materials, which yields an elemental composition with proper calibration. When we first proposed this technique to NASA, it had never been used for routine geochemistry on Earth, let alone on another planet. Our team developed the new concept and its calibration protocols for the ChemCam instrument that landed on Mars in 2012. In the ensuing years, not content to just explore the red planet with one instrument, we developed SuperCam as its successor, adding three additional techniques to aid in studying the alien landscape.
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