Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training and sample analysis
August 18, 2022

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Keyron Hickman-Lewis of the Natural History Museum, London (UK), visited the team of Barbara Cavalazzi at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Università di Bologna (Italy), from 8-13 November 2021 to participate in a Raman spectroscopy training course and as part of a major ongoing collaborative project for understanding the geobiological and astrobiological potentials of fossil-bearing stromatolites from the East African Rift system.

The Raman spectroscopy course allowed Keyron to familiarise himself with the WiTEC Raman system at Bologna and techniques for data treatment. Following the course, he performed several initial analyses of microbialite samples. During the Expert Exchange visit, Keyron advised on the preparation and process for conducting micro-CT analyses of stromatolites and conducted preliminary optical microscopy analyses of stromatolitic materials with Barbara and a doctoral candidate in her research group, Victor Amir Cardoso Dorneles Fo. This portion of the visit contributed to a major ongoing collaborative project for understanding the geobiology and astrobiology potentials of fossil-bearing stromatolites from a well-studied planetary analogue, the East African Rift system. These microbial structures are known to have developed in extreme environments that may resemble aqueous settings on the Noachian Mars and are, as such, prime targets for biosignature detection and astrobiology.

Keyron is co-supervisor for Victor’s PhD, so during his Expert Exchange visit they discussed Victor’s project direction, the availability and use of samples in both his own collections and those at the University of Bologna, and possibilities for fieldwork and sample acquisition throughout 2022. Victor has also now visited the NHM in London through another Europlanet Expert Exchange to be trained on various techniques using the samples that they prepared together. 

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Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.