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Title: Raman spectroscopic application for the analysis of organic compounds and minerals of astrobiological significance : the detection and discrimination of organic compounds and mineral analogues in pure and mixed samples of astrobiological significance using raman spectroscopy, XRD and scanning electron microscopy
Author: Alajtal, Adel Imhemed
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 110X
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2010
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Raman spectroscopy has been used to characterise both organic and geological samples in order to build a database for the future characterization of biomarker molecules that are of astrobiological relevance. Characteristic geological features and hydrated minerals recently found on the surface of Mars by the NASA planetary rovers Spirit and Opportunity suggest that a possible biosphere could have once existed there. Analytical instrumentation protocols for the unequivocal detection of biomarkers in suitable geological matrices are critical for future unmanned explorations, including the forthcoming ESA ExoMars mission scheduled for 2018. Several geological features found on the surface of Mars by planetary rovers suggest that a possible extinct biosphere could exist based on similar sources of energy as occurred on Earth. For this reason, analytical instrumental protocols for the detection of isolated biomarkers preserved in suitable geological matrices unequivocally and non-destructively have to be evaluated for future unmanned missions. Raman spectroscopy is currently part of the Pasteur instrumentation suite of the ExoMars mission for the remote detection of extant or extinct life signatures in the Martian surface and subsurface. Terrestrial analogues of Martian sites have been identified and the biogeological modifications resulting from extremophilic survival activity have been studied. Here we present the Raman spectral characterization of several examples of organic compounds which have been recorded using 785 nm, 633 nm and 514 nm laser excitation -polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organic acids, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Experimental mixtures of ß-carotene in usnic acid, PAHs in usnic acid and PAHs in mineral matrices have also been investigated. Organic compounds and PAHs located under crystalline minerals samples were identified using a 5x objective lens and 785 nm III excitation. The pure compounds and compound mixtures were also analysed using X-ray powder diffraction and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results of this study indicate that near infrared laser at 785 nm provided the clearest and the most informative spectra due to the reduction of fluorescence emission. Higher energy lasers operating in the visible region have resulted in the emission of significant background fluorescence. Few samples fluoresce even with the use of 785 nm excitation and FT-Raman spectroscopy remains the instrument of choice for the analysis of these samples.
Supervisor: Edwards, Howell G. M. ; Scowen, Ian J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Raman spectroscopy ; Mars analogues ; Minerals ; PAH's ; Organic compounds ; Astrobiology ; Biomarker molecules ; Geological samples