The University of Arizona

Identification of minerals and meteoritic materials via Raman techniques after capture in hypervelocity impacts on aerogel

M. J. Burchell, J. Mann, J. A. Creighton, A. T. Kearsley, G. Graham, I. A. Franchi


Mineral particles analogous to components of cosmic dust were tested to determine if their Raman signatures can be recognized after hypervelocity capture in aerogel. The mineral particles were accelerated onto the silica aerogel by light-gas-gun shots. It was found that all the individual minerals captured in aerogel could be identified using Raman (or fluorescence) spectra. The laser beam spot size was 5 micrometers, and in some cases the captured particles were of a similar small size. In some samples fired into aerogel, a broadening and a shift in the wave numbers of some of the Raman bands was observed, a result of the trapped particles being at elevated temperatures due to laser heating. Temperatures of samples were also estimated from the relative intensities of Stokes and anti-Stokes Raman bands, or, in the case of corundum particles, from the wave number of fluorescence bands excited by the laser. The temperature varied greatly, dependent upon laser power and the nature of the particle. Most of the mineral particles examined had temperatures below 200 °C at a laser power of about 3 mW at them sample. This temperature is sufficiently low enough not to damage most materials expected to be found captured in aerogel in space. In the worst case, some particles were shown to have temperatures of 500-700 °C. In addition, selected meteorite samples were examined to obtain Raman signatures of their constituent minerals and were then shot into aerogel. It was possible to find Raman signatures after capture in aerogel and obtain a Raman map of a whole grain in situ in the aerogel. It is concluded that Raman analysis is indeed well suited for an in situ analysis of micrometer-sized materials captured in aerogel.


Spectroscopy;Cosmic dust;Interplanetary dust particles;Cometary dust

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