Small laser systems search for patterns of life in space

Small laser systems search for patterns of life in space

Small but powerful: The steady-state laser module built in Jena combines a small scale with high power. Found: Fraunhofer IOF

Is there life on Mars? This is the question the European Space Agency (ESA) is asking to be answered with its ExoMars mission. The mission, which Russia has entered, is set to begin this fall, although recent political developments have raised questions as to whether it is possible. Part of the mission is an interesting analytical system designed to work in space and was created as part of a research project conducted at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF. The researchers based in Jena have developed a miniaturized laser module for ExoMars Rover’s mobile phone manufacturing facility. The institute will showcase this Raman spectrometer, which is equipped with a diode-pumped solid-state laser and has a size of about 50-centimeters, at the Laser World of Photonics in Munich from April 26 to 29.

The “Rosalind Franklin” rover will analyze mineralogical compounds on the surface of Mars, about 56 million kilometers from Earth, in order to find traces of extraterrestrial life on Earth. To accomplish this, the car has a drill on the board and a kind of scientific tool. One of these instruments is called a Raman spectrometer. It can be used to analyze the transmission of light from molecules, for example in the air, or from solid objects such as rock samples. The centerpiece of the highly reduced and air-conditioned laser source is a diode-pumped solid-state laser with double frequency, built at Fraunhofer IOF in Jena.

The Raman spectrometer works as follows: Laser light is emitted, interacting with the objects being observed. This is why it is called the “final Raman.” Energy travels from the light to the object and back. This changes the light energy, changing its wavelength. The light is then added to a spectrometer, where changes in wavelength are observed. The differences between the new frequency and the original frequency of the light released can be used to draw ideas about the nature of the object.

Small laser systems search for patterns of life in space

A Raman spectrometer measures a 50 -cent particle. Found: Fraunhofer IOF

Small but very strong pieces

The green laser built in Jena operates at wavelengths of 532 nanometers and more than 100 megawatts. “In total, our researchers spent seven years of development in order to adapt the module to the unique challenges of working in the air,” explains Drs. Erik Beckert, project manager of the ExoMars laser at Fraunhofer IOF. One of the most common difficulties for projects that create space is that the pieces need to be small and light. For example, the laser, with its housing, only adds 50 grams of weight to the rover, like half a chocolate bar.

But while it is miniaturized, it should provide the same level of performance and power. Sensitive optical components must be built to withstand temperature fluctuations between -130 and +24 degrees and high sensitivity to radiation in the air, as well as heavy vibrations when the rover launches. a pae.

Conventional methods for assembling optical components are not suitable for critical conditions. “This is why we connected all the components of the laser sensitive resonator and dual optics using a laser-based soldering technology,” Beckert explains. “This ensures very strong resistance to thermal and mechanical effects and high sensitivity to radiation.” Working with Spanish laser maker Monocrom, the Jena-based institute has developed five structurally identical lasers over the years using the Raman spectrometer. Now, researchers hope their technology will soon launch in space with the Mars mission.


The only discharge source is amplified in a single Raman fiber amplifier melting box


Presented by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Directions: Miniature laser systems for detecting traces of life in space (2022, April 1) Retrieved 1 April 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-miniaturized- laser-life-space.html

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