22-EPN3-061: Analogue Studies to Test the Scientific Potential of the First SERS Prototype Analysis
January 22, 2024

22-EPN3-061: Analogue Studies to Test the Scientific Potential of the First SERS Prototype Analysis

Marco Veneranda and Guillermo Lopez-Reyes (University of Valladolid, Spain) to TA1 – Iceland Field Sites, MATIS
Dates of visit: 24-30 July 2023

Iceland provides access to a great variety of environments that are widely considered potential analogues of hydrothermal processes on Mars). Previous investigation revealed a wide variety of microbial communities proliferating at the water side of Krysuvik and Hveradalir hydrothermal systems. Although providing crucial information on the dynamics of extremophilic life, the lack of low altered mineralogical samples prevented from: 1) fully comprehend the hydrothermal weathering dynamics of the primary rock (extrusive Fe-rich basaltic lava), and 2) determine the relation between microbial proliferation and the degree of hydrothermal alteration of the hosting mineral substrate. 

As these two aspects are of key importance to understand the habitability potential of the ancient hydrothermal systems found on Mars, Marco Veneranda and Guillermo Lopez Reyes performed a new campaign of analysis to address these two topics. On one hand, the two researchers investigated the mineralogical composition of the two analogue sites by using a portable emulator of the RLS Raman spectrometer onboard the ESA/ExoMars rover. Afterwards, a novel device for the automated synthesis of SERS nanoemulsions was used to investigate the organic content of the hydrothermal waters. The obtained results were then used to select optimal geological and biological samples to be returned in the laboratory for further investigation. As a whole, this research project aims at supporting the RLS team in defining and optimizing the potential scientific outcome of the RLS instrument once it will be operated on the surface of Mars.

Read the full scientific report with kind permission by Marco Veneranda and Guillermo Lopez-Reyes.

Molecular analysis performed in-situ by using a portable Raman spectrometer at the hydrothermal areas of Krýsuvik and Hveradalir.
Molecular analysis performed in-situ by using a portable Raman spectrometer at the hydrothermal areas of Krýsuvik and Hveradalir. Credit: M Veneranda.

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