The prospect of finding life outside Earth has fascinated mankind for ages, and new technology continuously pushes the boundary of how remote and how obscure evidence we can find. Employing smaller, or completely new, types of landers and robots, and equipping them with miniature instruments would indeed revolutionize exploration of other planets and moons.
In this thesis, microsystems technology is used to create a miniature high-precision isotope-resolving molecular spectrometer utilizing the optogalvanic effect. The heart of the instrument, as well as this thesis, is a microplasma source.
The plasma source is a split-ring resonator, chosen for its simplicity, pressure range and easily accessible plasma, and modified to fit the challenging application, e.g., by the adding of an additional ground plane for improved electromagnetic shielding, and the integration of microscopic plasma probes to extract the pristine optogalvanic signal.
Plasma sources of this kind have been manufactured in both printed circuit board and alumina, the latter for its chemical inertness and for compatibility with other devices in a total analysis system. From previous studies, classical optogalvanic spectroscopy (OGS), although being very sensitive, is known to suffer from stability and reproducibility issues. In this thesis several studies were conducted to investigate and improve these shortcomings, and to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. Moreover, extensive work was put into understanding the underlying physics of the technique.
The plasma sources developed here, are the first ever miniature devices to be used in OGS, and exhibits several benefits compared to traditional solutions. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that OGS scales well with miniaturization. For example, the signal strength does not decrease as the volume is reduced like in regular absorption spectroscopy. Moreover, the stability and reproducibility are greatly increased, in some cases as much as by two orders of magnitude, compared with recent studies made on a classical OGS setup. The signal-to-noise ratio has also been greatly improved, e.g., by enclosing the sample cell and by biasing the plasma. Another benefit of a miniature sample cell is the miniscule amount of sample it requires, which can be important in many applications where only small amounts of sample are available.
To conclude: With this work, an important step toward a miniature, yet highly performing, instrument for detection of extraterrestrial life, has been taken.
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. , 53 p.
MEMS, MST, Optogalvanic Spectroscopy, Molecular Spectroscopy, Split-Ring Resonator, Microplasma
2015-06-05, Polhemsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)