Urey Life Detector

The Urey: Mars Organic Oxidant Detector has been designed by NASA-funded researchers to look for life on Mars. This "life detector" will check for life's essential molecules at incredibly small concentrations. Urey will also distinguish between amino acids made by biological and non-biological processes.


(Urey: Mars Organic and Oxidant Detector)

The device is named after Harold Urey, who received the 1934 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Dr. Urey is also known for a 1953 experiment with Stanley Miller in which it was shown that a lightning-like discharge in a test tube full of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water could produce amino acids.

Every form of life on Earth has proteins assembled from chains of amino acids. However, amino acids can be made both by living organisms and by non-biological processes. The presence of amino acids alone do not prove the existence of life.

It turns out that non-biological processes create a 50/50 mix of left- and right-handed versions of the molecules. Living things on Earth, however, make and use left-handed amino acids almost exclusively. Clever Urey the life detector will be looking for the ratio between left- and right-handed molecules.

A Urey component called the micro-capillary electrophoresis unit has the critical job of separating different types of organic compounds from one another for identification, including separation of mirror-image amino acids from each other. "We have essentially put a laboratory onto a single wafer," said Dr. Richard Mathies of the University of California, Berkeley, a Urey co-investigator.

The European Space Agency has chosen Urey to be part of the payload for the ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013. The rover will grind Martian soil to a fine powder and then deliver it to a suite of instruments, including Urey.

The Urey sensor will remind many people of the long range "sensor scans" on science fiction programs like Star Trek. However, author Frank Herbert thought about the idea a decade earlier in his short story Cease Fire:

The antennae of the Life Detector atop the OP swept back and forth in a rhythmic halfcircle like so many frozen sticks brittle with rime ice...
(Read more about Frank Herbert's )

You might also be interested in this earlier article on life detecting sensors: Zoe Robot To Find Life On Distant Worlds. See also these related stories:

Read a bit more at the Hubo lab website.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/13/2007)

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 ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.' - Robert Heinlein, 1942.

Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.' - Jack Williamson, 1939.

Trillionaires Still Earth-Bound
'I shall never forget the sight... when the yellow gleam of the precious metal appeared under the star dust.' - Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.

Grow Plants On Moon Or Mars!
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.' Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

 

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

Road Noise Charges Electric Cars With Peugeot Piezoelectric Billboard
''... major cities of Earth have free electrical power conveniently processed from their own noise.'

Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'

M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'

NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'

Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'

Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'

Vascularized Human Skin 3D Printed
Hey Fishboy!

Trillionaires Still Earth-Bound
'I shall never forget the sight... when the yellow gleam of the precious metal appeared under the star dust.'

Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.

3D Printed Dubai Building Is World's Largest
'This thing will start at one end of ...a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.'

Grow Plants On Moon Or Mars!
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.'

California Gets Shockwave Rider-Style Avoidance Zones
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'

Microbot Interstellar von Neumann Explorers
'Evidently they have never had a planet of their own...'

Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.'

Finally! Microsoft Surface Neo And Surface Duo Implement Excellent Courier Idea
'Runcible, whose pages were thicker and more densely packed with computational machinery...'

Tap Strap 2 Now With Air Mouse
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'

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.