New microplasma source excites matter in controlled way, may revolutionize how archaeologists date objects in the field

September 6, 2013
A new microplasma source, shown on the finger of Uppsala University doctoral student Martin Berglund, may help archaeologists date objects in the field. Credit: A.Persson/Uppsala

A team of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden has designed a microplasma source capable of exciting matter in a controlled, efficient way. This miniature device may find use in a wide range of applications in harsh environments, but can also help revolutionize archaeology.

As the researchers describe in the Journal of Applied Physics, produced by AIP Publishing, their new device offers many advantages, such as , an integrated fluidic system, and Langmuir probes for plasma diagnostics.

At the university's Ångström Space Technology Centre (ÅSTC), the researchers work with many kinds of micro and nanotechnologies for use in space and other : scientific instruments, imaging, communication hardware, vehicles and spacecraft, propulsion devices, and . Size limitation is always a huge challenge.

"Putting miniaturized hardware into orbit or thousands of meters underground is always technically easier and less expensive, but using fundamentally different technology for demanding applications is often met with skepticism," explains Greger Thornell, director of ÅSTC. "So we need to also compete in terms of performance and reliability."

The researchers are accustomed to working with microrocketry and localized phenomena in tiny devices such as sensors and actuators. These types of phenomena sometimes involve very , intense plasma, and high pressures.

"In this case, the localization, or rather concentration, means that the device itself becomes handy and power-efficient, and also that it consumes small sample amounts, which widens the range of applications far beyond the requirement of simply lightweight or portable instruments," said Thornell.

Archaeology is one of the main applications being investigated right now to help determine the distribution of in organic samples. "This information is critical for archaeologists, but measuring these isotope distributions can be extremely painstaking and time consuming," said Anders Persson, senior researcher.

Their plasma source may be used to develop an instrument for field archaeologists, which would allow them to perform measurements while out in the field; this in turn may revolutionize archaeology by diversifying the amount of information available during the decision-making process of an excavation. "Archaeology is just one of the many exciting applications we see for our plasma source," he added.

This is still an early study to evaluate the use of this type of plasma source in an optogalvanic spectroscopy setup. "The next step will be to start reiterating and optimizing the signal-to-noise ratios," said Martin Berglund, doctoral student.

Explore further: Plasma nanoscience needed for green energy revolution

More information: The article, "Microplasma source for optogalvanic spectroscopy of nanogram samples," authored by Martin Berglund, Greger Thornell, and Anders Persson, is published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Related Stories

Plasma nanoscience needed for green energy revolution

April 14, 2011

A step change in research relating to plasma nanoscience is needed for the world to overcome the challenge of sufficient energy creation and storage, says a leading scientist from CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering and ...

Tiny submersible could search for life in Europa's ocean

June 11, 2013

One of the first visitors to Jupiter's icy moon of Europa could be a tiny submarine barely larger than two soda cans. The small craft might help strike the right balance between cost and capability for a robotic mission to ...

Key factors for wireless power transfer

July 31, 2013

What happens to a resonant wireless power transfer system in the presence of complex electromagnetic environments, such as metal plates? A team of researchers explored the influences at play in this type of situation, and ...

Recommended for you

A quantum of light for materials science

December 1, 2015

Computer simulations that predict the light-induced change in the physical and chemical properties of complex systems, molecules, nanostructures and solids usually ignore the quantum nature of light. Scientists of the Max-Planck ...

Quantum dots used to convert infrared light to visible light

December 1, 2015

(—A team of researchers at MIT has succeeded in creating a double film coating that is able to convert infrared light at modest intensities into visible light. In their paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, ...

Test racetrack dipole magnet produces record 16 tesla field

November 30, 2015

A new world record has been broken by the CERN magnet group when their racetrack test magnet produced a 16.2 tesla (16.2T) peak field – nearly twice that produced by the current LHC dipoles and the highest ever for a dipole ...

Turbulence in bacterial cultures

November 30, 2015

Turbulent flows surround us, from complex cloud formations to rapidly flowing rivers. Populations of motile bacteria in liquid media can also exhibit patterns of collective motion that resemble turbulent flows, provided the ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (5) Sep 06, 2013
will they be able to accurately determine the age of the Great Pyramid at Giza?
1 / 5 (4) Sep 06, 2013
I ran into an archaeologist 'dating' an object in a field once.
I said,"Dang, that's disgusting! When are you nerds going to learn about women!"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.