In-Situ Hydrothermal Vent Isotope Ratiometer
Small Business Information
67 East Evelyn Avenue, Suite 3, Mountain View, CA, 94041
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project concerns the novel application of cavity-enhanced absorption spectroscopy to determine isotope ratios in carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor emitting from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The NASA Ames Astrobiology Group is interested in studying these vents for the possible existence of a subsurface microbiological ecosystem, whose occurrence may be partially detected by measuring such isotope ratios. In Phase I, we will demonstrate the ability to make all three of these ratio measurements in a single, multiplexed instrument using both simulated and actual hydrothermal gas samples. Preliminary results suggest that our system can determine isotope ratios to better than 0.1%, which is sufficient to determine the presence of biological activity. The Phase II effort will consist primarily of packaging the instrument for deep-sea environments and subsequent testing in conjunction with NASA. The final Phase II prototype will be delivered to the NASA Ames Astrobiology Group. This instrument will be the first remotely operable sensor capable of measuring isotope ratios with sufficient precision to indicate the presence of biological activity in deep-sea environments.
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