Mars Rover device gets new mission on Earth

Feb 05, 2009
Mars Rover at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Developed to sniff out extraterrestrial life on other planets, a portable device known as the Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA) is taking on a new role in detecting air pollutants on Earth. Researchers in California report the development of a modified MOA able to detect polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), potentially carcinogenic molecules from cigarette smoke and wood smoke, volcanic ash, and other sources. The report appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Analytical Chemistry.

In the report, Richard A. Mathies and colleagues indicate that current earthbound PAH detection focuses on the cleanup of environmental contamination sites. On other planets, the concentration of organic PAH molecules can provide valuable insight into environmental conditions and the potential for extraterrestrial life. But existing PAH detection methods are slow and costly. Scientists thus are seeking an inexpensive, rapid and nondestructive technique for the measurement of PAH contamination.

The researchers tested samples from Lake Erie and a hydrothermal vent from the Gulf of California, as well as a Martian analogue sample from the Mars-like Atacama Desert, one of the driest spots on earth. They found that the detection sensitivity of the device was on par with current laboratory methods. “The method of PAH analysis developed here significantly advances the MOA’s capabilities for organic carbon detection and may also prove useful for environmental monitoring,” says Mathies.

Article: "Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Analysis with the Mars Organic Analyzer Microchip Capillary Electrophoresis System”, Analytical Chemistry

Provided by ACS

Explore further: Beer quality is no froth and bubble

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Agricultural fires blaze in Borneo

Sep 26, 2014

The skies over Indonesian Borneo were filled with the smoke from hundreds of fires set deliberately to clear farmland. A shroud of thick, gray smoke hung over the area when the Aqua satellite captured this ...

Naked jets of water make a better pollutant detector

Oct 03, 2013

When you shine ultraviolet light (UV) through water polluted with certain organic chemicals and bacteria, the contaminants measurably absorb the UV light and then re-emit it as visible light. Many of today's ...

Cassini sees precursors to aerosol haze on Titan

Jun 06, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists working with data from NASA's Cassini mission have confirmed the presence of a population of complex hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, that later ...

NASA develops key to cosmic carbon's molecular evolution

May 14, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., now have the capability to systematically investigate the molecular evolution of cosmic carbon. For the first time, these scientists ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

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.