Date: Thursday, 8 January 2015 11:30AM
Location: Hubbs 4500
Mobile and Miniature Mass Spectrometers for Marine and
In situ mass spectrometry in extreme environments, such as in the deep ocean or outer space, poses significant challenges. Many of these challenges are common, including the requirements for high reliability, autonomous or remote operation, ruggedness to deal with rapidly changing environmental conditions, and restrictions on size, weight, and power. Other engineering concerns are specific to the particular environment, such as extreme pressure differentials between ambient hydrostatic pressure and mass spectrometer vacuum at depth in the ocean, and extreme temperature ranges in deep space.
We have been developing underwater mass spectrometers and have deployed these instruments on a variety of underwater platforms, such as tow sleds, vertical profiling frames, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). One of the primary targets in recent years has been in situ characterization of underwater natural hydrocarbon seeps and leaks.
More recently, we have begun to design and test a prototype micro-machined ion trap array mass spectrometer aimed at detecting and identifying low-molecular-weight biomarkers, ultimately to be adapted for space missions of astrobiological relevance. We plan to demonstrate that the prototype instrument can detect and characterize water and compounds of prebiotic relevance, such as those on the surface of comets.
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