Detection of Indigenous Organic Matter in Rocks
Indigenous organic matter (IOM) found within geological materials is a crucial element in astrobiology, offering valuable insight into the prospect of past or present life on planetary bodies like Mars. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers were specifically designed to explore the terrain of Mars and seek evidence of organic compounds. Indeed, organic molecules have been identified in Martian rocks and sedimentary formations using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).
A new study outlines the methods for identifying kerogens (solid, insoluble organic matter in sedimentary rocks) in oil shale using LIBS and interpreting carbon molecular forms in the laser-induced plasma. This marks the first instance of detecting indigenous organic compounds in rocks using molecular LIBS and can aid data interpretation of the Martian sediments. The results have been published in a paper entitled, “Detection of indigenous organic matter in rocks from the interpretation of carbon molecular forms in the laser-induced plasma.”
High-resolution spectrometers are crucial for distinguishing between closely spaced spectral features, which is quite essential for carbohydrates since they often have similar ionization energies and fragmentation patterns. The high-resolution LIBS spectra in this study were obtained using a DEMON echelle spectrograph from LTB Lasertechnik Berlin GmbH, which provides an average resolution of 0.0013 nm in the investigated region. Because of its unique optical design, the DEMON offers a resolving power of 75,000.
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