In this project we will design a portable LIBS system for remote analysis of extraterrestrial matter. In particular, we will focus our efforts on the development of a LIBS organic database of small molecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and other elementary building blocks of life. LIBS can provide quantitative primary structure identification of complex bio-molecules associated with NASA’s search for extraterrestrial life such as amino acids, peptides, proteins, DNA, polysaccharides, etc. We further propose exploring the possibilities of LIBS in secondary structure determination i.e., polymer lengths. We will develop a LIBS Organic Molecules Identification Database similar to the LIBS Pure Element Database previously developed. We will design a sample chamber with a controlled environment to mimic specific conditions of different planets, i.e., 95.32% Carbon Dioxide, 2.7% Nitrogen, 1.6% Argon and traces of oxygen and water for Mars.
Additionally, we plan to work with the ChemCam team at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to explore data reduction techniques which will be applicable for Mars. The ChemCam team is currently developing data reduction tools around multi-variate analysis core algorithms, including partial least squares (PLS) and principal or independent component analysis (PCA/ICA). However, application of these tools with LIBS needs to be better understood. For example, how many geological standards and what level of sample heterogeneity is needed to give best analytical results for a suite of geological samples? In variable stand-off analyses such as ChemCam, how does one correct data sets for different distances when some emission lines (and hence elements) are more sensitive to distance than others? Do diurnal variations in pressure or temperature as experienced on Mars need to be taken into account? What is the best way to present multi-dimensional (i.e., multi-component) data?
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