'Tricorder' Ready For Mars Rover This Year

As science fiction fans may recall, the tricorder was a standard issue prop in the original Star Trek series of the mid-1960's. The standard Starfleet tricorder was used for determining various characteristics of landing areas; the chemical composition of any material was easily determined. Tricorders need only be aimed at the object of study, and a material analysis is ready for the user in moments.

Of course, that's just science fiction. Or is it?

"We're developing a tricorder," declares Dr. Robert Downs of the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences. The technology is being developed to create a pocket-sized model for the 2009 Mars rover that will be able to determine the composition of minerals in Martian rocks and soil.


(Robert Downs adjusts material in a Raman spectrometer)

The new "tricorder" will have two functional parts: a very compact Raman spectrometer and a comprehensive database of Earth's minerals.

The Raman spectrometer is based on a technique developed by Sir C.V. Raman, an Indian physicist who won a Nobel prize in 1930 for the discovery. Unlike most methods of conducting an analysis of a material, it does not require destructive testing. By firing a laser at the sample, atoms are excited, which then emit a very weak light with a pattern characteristic of the material. Says Downs, "It's like a fingerprint." Dr. Bonner Denton is working on the hardware side; NASA is providing funding to develop the instrument for the 2009 Mars Rover.

The other necessary component is a database of these patterns; this requires that known samples are tested and the patterns are recorded. As you might imagine, this is a labor-intensive process; a group of undergraduate researchers is helping complete the RRUFF Project, the first comprehensive database of the Raman spectra of all of Earth's minerals. The RRUFF Project is funded by a grant from Michael Scott, founding president of Apple Computer. (RRUFF is the name of Scott's cat.)

The device will have applications in many fields, not just planetary exploration. According to Dr. Downs:

"Bonner Denton has a demonstration he uses upstairs. He takes a bottle of Tylenol, a white plastic container and the pills are inside. You can shoot the Raman [specrometer] and a laser goes through that white plastic, it identifies the three parts of Tylenol and it tells you what the plastic is made out of. It works on leaves. I can identify the species of trees by shooting their leaves. I donít think the biologists are aware of this yet."
(From Mars Science Laboratory)


(Spock's Tricorder - Detail)

Dr. Downs and Dr. Denton are working on the materials part of a tricorder; take a look at the NUGGET - Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography device to see how NASA is doing on a device that can detect life forms. Read more from these reference articles: Identifying Gems and Minerals on Earth and Mars and Mars Science Laboratory

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/12/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Glass Dome Cities On Mars, Dreamed By Elon Musk
'They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider spaces...' - HG Wells, 1905.

Solar Power Beamed From Space Studied By Brit Boffins
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun.' - Murray Leinster, 1931.

Smallest Rogue Planet Discovered In Milky Way
'...a swarm of rogue planets chanced by.' - Poul Anderson, 1967.

New Technology For Interplanetary Communication
'... sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets, stood by their generators.' - Harry Gore Bishop, 1907.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

'Black Friday' Online Shopping - In 1899!
'In your days they showed you a fashion-plate,' said the tailor, 'but this is our modern development.'

DARPA's Virtual Caves Explored By Virtual Robots
'If there's anything in here worth looking at, these pups'll find it.'

Glass Dome Cities On Mars, Dreamed By Elon Musk
'They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider spaces...'

Kuka Robot 'Heidi' Paints With Artificial Intelligence
Robots make art for man.

Looking Glass Display Good Enough For Science Fiction, Fantasy
'The figure seemed to be swimming toward the surface.'

Do You Need The Entire Fembot? Maybe Just The Hand
'...Men don't want real women anymore. You and I are behind the times...'

3D Printing With Sunlight And Sand
'We made a crude, small cell and were delighted...'

Samsung Gets Transparent Smartphone Patent
The Transparency of Things to Come

Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!'

Solar Power Beamed From Space Studied By Brit Boffins
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun.'

Pandemic Entrepreneurs! Consider Robo Esso Robot Barista
'... the perpetual beam carved in the robot face of the bartender, the classic Irish grin.'

Shape-Shifting Robot From MIT
'... the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Tesla's 20,000 Superchargers
'To recharge the batteries, which can be done in almost every town and village...'

Smallest Rogue Planet Discovered In Milky Way
'...a swarm of rogue planets chanced by.'

New Technology For Interplanetary Communication
'... sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets, stood by their generators.'

First Lunar Water, Then... Monolith?
'It looks brand new, doesn't it?'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.