'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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion (Back On) ( 5 )
Related News Stories -
The Interplanetary Internet, Vint Cerf Speaking
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'- George O. Smith, 1942.
30-Day Trip To Mars?
'The Federation Ship Champion... made the crossing under Lyle Drive in only nineteen days.'- Robert Heinlein, 1961.
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array - And Fred Hoyle
'Scientifically it would all make a lot more sense in Chile.'- Sir Fred Hoyle, 1973.
Students! NASA's Space Radiation Challenge Is On
'The rocket-water tanks - all around us... that saved us?'- John W. Campbell, 1936.
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.
MIT Robot Cheetah Video Shows Gait Transition
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power, like a cheetah's.'
TrackingPoint Smart Rifle
Not your typical 'smart bullet' approach.
'Hello, Computer!' Google Now Highlighted at IO13
Sky City's 220 Stories Are Go
'It rested among green parklands and... stood in total isolation, a glittering block of whites and flashing windows dotted with colors.'
CARMAT Bioprosthetic Total Human Heart Replacement
'George Walt's corporate existence proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'
Personal Sniffer Robots
'...The ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the hound.'
Physical Exam? We've Got Apps
See the future of handheld, personal medical devices.
The Interplanetary Internet, Vint Cerf Speaking
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Drosophila Robotica, The Mechanical Fly
'... the Scarab [flying robot] buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might...'
Robo-Raven Flapping Wing Robot Bird
'When he had first built them, they had been crude indeed, flying mechanisms with little more than a reflex-response unit.'
Japan's Nursing Home Robot Plan
Let's make the Roujin Z-0001 Robotic Bed!
Samsung Smart TVs With Gesture Control
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Swiss HCPVT Giant Photovoltaic 'Flower'
'...leaning against one of the slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector.'
Mini-Livers Made By 3D Printer
Organleggers may experience an employment downturn.
Smartphone Sensor System Tracks Gunfire
'Sound trackers on the roof could zero in on weapons action...'
Bacteria Now Make Biofuel Like Oil
'They have ... germs that eat pretty near anything, and produce oil as a waste product.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories