By: Nate Figlewski, Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton OH
The search for life outside of Earth is one of the quintessential quests for knowledge that drives space research today. Laser Desorption is a method for analyzing the spectrum of a medium, in this case ice, which might contain signs of life in. These signs come in the form of complex organic molecules which have a unique signature in the infrared spectrum.
This research involves efforts using Laser Resonant Desorption on cold (77 K) water ice targets as a new method of Infrared Spectroscopy. Higher energy desorption techniques, such as Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization (MALDI) have been used to analyze the elemental and chemical makeup of extraterrestrial surfaces. However, processes like LIBS restrict the spectroscopic process to reviewing elements, because more complex compounds are broken apart during the desorption process. Laser Desorption - Infrared Spectroscopy (LD-IR) takes advantage of water’s high absorption levels in the mid IR range, requiring less energy, thus reducing the energy cost on a mission while allowing larger compounds to remain intact.
First, we observe the peak absorption wavelength of cold water ice using an Opotek Opolette 3034 tunable IR Optical Parametric Oscillator (OPO). We will also explore the desorption threshold of ice under the conditions presented, as well as the desorption of amorphous ice. Then, using the wavelength found, we show relationship between pulse energy and quantity of material desorbed.
Nate Figlewski earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Physics from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina in 2012. He is currently commission in the United States Air Force as a 2d Lieutenant and serves in the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate in the Integrated Threat Warning Laboratory on Wright-Patterson AFB. This research was performed while on a summer internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
Light Refreshments will be served.