Miniaturized laser-spectrometer for in-situ isotopic analysis of biological and geological markers

Time period: 2015-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Funder: Swedish National Space Agency

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 3 995 000 SEK

Measurements of trace gases and isotopic ratios are important tools when studying the history and evolution of the solar system. A majority of past planetary exploration missions have carried different kinds of spectrometers to perform such measurements, and the demand for this kind of instruments is expected to continue in future missions, although they will have to meet more demanding requirements in terms of mass, power consumption, integrability and sensitivity. This research program revolves around a laser-based IR spectrometer, more precisely one based on the optogalvanic effect, which is capable of both trace-gas sensing and isotope-ratio measurements. Such an instrument can be robust yet extremely sensitive – two promising features when aiming for space applications – and can be used to study a wide variety of molecules. One of the major aims of the program is to study the possibility of creating a miniaturized version of the instrument by employing microsystems technology. A miniaturized optogalvanic spectrometer would not only be small, but also power efficient, and, hence, ideal for future planetary exploration missions to, e.g., Mars, Venus, the Moon, comets, and the moons of the Jupiter and Saturn. In more concrete terms, the program aims at investigating how a novel optogalvanic sensor cell, invented by the applicant, can be combined with a quantum cascade laser, into a powerful, yet versatile platform for optogalvanic spectrometry of trace-gases and isotope ratios, and how this platform can be qualified for space.