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Planetary Instrument Concepts for the Advancement of Solar System Observations

Towards Miniaturization of Instrumentation for In-Situ Organic Detection: Hands-Off PicoTOF

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Towards Miniaturization of Instrumentation for In-Situ Organic Detection: Hands-Off PicoTOF

We propose to develop and test a new ambient-pressure picosecond laser ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (PicoTOF) for sensitive analysis of surface organic composition on Mars and on other bodies in our solar system without the need for drilling, fetching, or transferring the sample. By taking advantage of time and space domains in independent laser ablation (leading to neutral plumes) and multiphoton ionization (away from the source and within a differentially pumped stage), and aided by reflectron time-of-flight mass spectrometry, this instrument will be uniquely poised to directly interrogate planetary surfaces at their ambient pressures with increased sensitivities compared to traditional laser ablation mass spectrometers. The PicoTOF — starting at TRL 2 and ending at TRL 3 — will lay foundation for development of a miniature flash-light size (~10" x 3") PicoTOF instrument in the future at higher TRL. PicoTOF will be a state-of-the-art instrument for rapid detection of organics in a variety of samples such as ices and minerals covering a mass range of at least 1-1000 m/z (amu) with a mass resolution of better than 500 (m/µm) aimed at missions to Mars, comets, asteroids, and the outer solar system.

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