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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2010 Jul 13;368(1922):3109-25. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0075.

Using portable Raman spectrometers for the identification of organic compounds at low temperatures and high altitudes: exobiological applications.

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Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Mineral Resources, Charles University in Prague, Albertov 6, 128 43 Prague 2, Czech Republic.


Organic minerals, organic acids and NH-containing organic molecules represent important target molecules for astrobiology. Here, we present the results of the evaluation of a portable hand-held Raman spectrometer to detect these organic compounds outdoors under field conditions. These measurements were carried out during the February-March 2009 winter period in Austrian Alpine sites at temperatures ranging between -5 and -25 degrees C. The compounds investigated were detected under field conditions and their main Raman spectral features were observed unambiguously at their correct reference wavenumber positions. The results obtained demonstrate that a miniaturized Raman spectrometer equipped with 785 nm excitation could be applied with advantage as a key instrument for investigating the presence of organic minerals, organic acids and nitrogen-containing organic compounds outdoors under terrestrial low-temperature conditions. Within the payload designed by ESA and NASA for several missions focusing on Mars, Titan, Europa and other extraterrestrial bodies, Raman spectroscopy can be proposed as an important non-destructive analytical tool for the in situ identification of organic compounds relevant to life detection on planetary and moon surfaces or near subsurfaces.

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