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"Application of Tunable Diode Laser Spectrometry to Isotopic Studies for Exobiology"

  • Todd B., Sauke
Publication Date
Sep 29, 1999
SETI Institute


Computer-controlled electrically-activated valves for rapid gas-handling have been incorporated into the Stable Isotope Laser Spectrometer (SILS) which now permits rapid filling and evacuating of the sample and reference gas cells, Experimental protocols have been developed to take advantage of the fast gas handling capabilities of the instrument and to achieve increased accuracy which results from reduced instrumental drift during rapid isotopic ratio measurements. Using these protocols accuracies of 0.5 del (0.05%) have been achieved in measurements of 13C/12C in carbon dioxide. Using the small stable isotope laser spectrometer developed in a related PIDDP project of the Co-I, protocols for acquisition of rapid sequential calibration spectra were developed which resulted in 0.5 del accuracy also being achieved in this less complex instrument. An initial version of software for automatic characterization of tunable diode lasers has been developed and diodes have been characterized in order to establish their spectral output properties. A new state-of-the-art high operating temperature (200 K) mid infrared diode laser was purchased (through NASA procurement) and characterized. A thermo-electrically cooled mid infrared tunable diode laser system for use with high temperature operation lasers was developed. In addition to isotopic ratio measurements of carbon and oxygen, measurements of a third biologically important element (15N/14N in N2O gas) have been achieved to a preliminary accuracy of about 0.2%. Transfer of the basic SILS technology to the commercial sector is proceeding under an unfunded Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpiraMed, a medical diagnostic instrument company. Two patents have been issued. Foreign patents based on these two US patents have been applied for and are expected to be issued. A preliminary design was developed for a thermo-electrically cooled SILS instruments for application to planetary space flight exploration missions.

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