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Raman spectroscopy can provide chemical information about organic and inorganic substances quickly and nondestructively with little to no sample preparation, thus making it an ideal instrument for Mars rover missions. The ESA ExoMars planetary mission scheduled for launch in 2018 will contain a miniaturized Raman spectrometer (RLS) as part of the Pasteur payload operating with a continuous wave (CW) laser emitting at 532 nm. In addition, NASA is independently developing two miniaturized Raman spectrometers for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, one of which is a remote (stand-off) Raman spectrometer that uses a pulse-gated 532 nm excitation system (SuperCam). The other is an in situ Raman spectrometer that employs a CW excitation laser emitting at 248.6 nm (SHERLOC). Recently, it has been shown with analyses by Curiosity that Gale Crater contains significantly elevated concentrations of transition metals such as Cr and Mn. Significantly, these transition metals are known to undergo fluorescence emission in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Consequently, samples containing these metals could be problematic for the successful acquisition of fluorescence-free Raman spectra when using a CW 532 nm excitation source. Here, we investigate one analog environment, with a similar mineralogy and sedimentology to that observed in martian environments, as well as elevated Cr contents, to ascertain the best excitation wavelength to successfully collect fluorescence-free spectra from Mars-like samples. Our results clearly show that CW near-infrared laser excitation emitting at 785 nm is better suited to the collection of fluorescence-free Raman spectra than would be a CW laser emitting at 532 nm.


Craig P Marshall, Alison Olcott Marshall. Challenges Analyzing Gypsum on Mars by Raman Spectroscopy. Astrobiology. 2015 Sep;15(9):761-9

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PMID: 26317670

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