'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 ")

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.

Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.

Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.

 

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

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'

Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'

Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'

TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'

Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'

Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'

Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!

Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'

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.