Numerous researchers, including astronauts, are examining Mars, notably its atmosphere and soil composition. In a recent study, scientists properly identified nitrogen in simulated Martian soil using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technology. The importance of this study lies in the fact that identifying nitrogen on Mars is essential to identifying indications that life is possible there.
With comparable nitrogen concentrations up to 0.01 weight percent, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover’s gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) instrument has identified oxidized nitrogen-bearing molecules on the Martian surface. However, the present limits of detection (LOD) and accuracy of LIBS technology for nitrogen analysis aboard the rover fall short of expectations. By performing laboratory tests to inform improvements in the LIBS technology on the Mars rover and data treatment procedures, the study team addressed the requirement for an enhanced approach.
They concentrated on the difficulties of sensitivity and matrix effects in LIBS technology nitrogen measurement, especially considering its different chemical speciation in geological materials. The researchers used a narrow-bandwidth Czerny-Turner (CT) spectrometer and a broad-bandwidth Echelle spectrometer in a double-detection experimental arrangement. As a result of this configuration, the study team utilized the CT spectrometer to identify nitrogen emission lines and the Echelle spectrometer to identify emission lines from the sample’s principal constituents. The researchers created a neural network that enabled efficient multivariate regression by merging the spectra.
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