'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 ")

Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
'The borers had been dismantled and packed away.' - Ray Cummings, 1930.

Starshade Will Help Space Telescope To Search For Exoplanets
'When it found planetary systems in its field, automatically shifted upon them a higher powered telespectroscope ...' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.' - George Lucas, 1977.

Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.' - EC Tubb, 1958.

 

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

Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
'The borers had been dismantled and packed away.'

Bee+ Robobee Now With Four Wings
'It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length...'

CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder
'We could certainly spin a web right through the Solar System, if we can think of a good use for one.'

Starshade Will Help Space Telescope To Search For Exoplanets
'When it found planetary systems in its field, automatically shifted upon them a higher powered telespectroscope ...'

Tiny LEDs Developed For Dust-Sized Computers
'They use sparkles to talk to each other...'

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.'

Can We Comprehend Deep Learning Systems?
'Youíve nothing remotely like it, so I canít describe it to you.'

Skin Electronics Can Show Electrocardiogram
'... the young men in the streets who applied polyimde OLED body film to their bared shoulders.'

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.'

Skai Air Taxi Costs The Same As Uber
'The air-taxi found its way past and around other ground-cars...'

Neurodevices For Consumers? Neuroethicists (And Philip K Dick) Say 'Caveat Emptor'
'They tried to use it today and it wouldn't work. No colors and no ceph patterns, neither one...'

NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Won By AI SpaceFactory
3D printing - on Mars!

The Future Of Elon Musk's Neuralink
'Cerebral Electromagnetic Emmission Amplification and Relay System ó call it artificial telepathy, if you like.'

Researchers Make You Say Anything in Videos
'[It] caused his televised image... to mouth the vowels and consonants beautifully.'

Jeff Bezos Tries Waldoes (Robotic Hands)
'Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him...'

Asimov and Musk - Boring Company Tunnel vs. Street Race
'There was almost no sound, just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'

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.