Miniaturized mass spectrometer for Mars exploration has massive potential

phys.org | 8/29/2017 | Staff
iceyy (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net/newman/gfx/news/hires/2017/3-miniaturized.jpg

BYU researchers have created a miniaturized, portable version of a tool now capable of analyzing Mars' atmosphere—and that's just one of its myriad possible uses.

For decades mass spectrometers have offered a relatively fast and highly sensitive way to analyze and detect chemical compounds. But their bulky size has been a hindrance, limiting their in-field potential.

Years - Problem - BYU - Chemistry - Professor

But after spending 12 years exploring the problem, BYU chemistry professor Daniel Austin, joined by electrical engineering professor Aaron Hawkins and other colleagues, has developed a much smaller spectrometer that still has the capabilities of its larger counterparts.

"The goal was to take what would otherwise be a huge, benchtop instrument to something that's small enough to carry with you," said Austin, whose team's findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

Spectrometers - Past - Spectrometer - Capacity - Strength

Though smaller spectrometers have been developed in the past, they've generally been less sensitive and more likely to break down. But a small spectrometer whose capacity and strength isn't minimized by its size, Austin said, opens up a world of potential applications, including the following:

A miniaturized mass spectrometer could detect and find chemical weapons, minimizing danger to soldiers in a given region.

Homeland - Security - Realm - Mass - Spectrometers

In the homeland security realm, miniaturized mass spectrometers could help detect explosives in airports or elsewhere.

For forensic investigators, portable spectrometers could help with a range of on-site needs, including determining whether a white powder is an illegal drug or something benign.

Mass - Spectrometers - Technicians - People - Access

"Because mass spectrometers are typically large and expensive and require technicians to operate, not many people can get access to them," said Yuan Tian, a study co-author and recent BYU chemistry Ph.D. grad. "But miniaturized mass spectrometers...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Sign In or Register to comment.

Welcome to Long Room!

Where The World Finds Its News!