Expert Exchange: Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice
November 26, 2022

Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice 

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). 

Fulvio Franchi, Botswana International University of Science & Technology (Palapye, Botswana) visited Dr Zoltán Juhász, Atomki (Debrecen, Hungary) from 24 – 30 May 2022 to trial techniques to characterise methane concentrations in Arctic ice as a potential analogue for studies of icy moons in the Solar System

The study of natural methane content in ice from the Arctic will have a strong relevance as an analogue for the study of Icy Moons such as Europa and Enceladus. Preliminary observation on these celestial bodies have reportedly shown the presence of methane. However, how the methane was produced and what relationship exists between the methane and potential habitability of this celestial bodies is still matter for speculations. The only way to get closer to the truth is by testing natural materials on Earth that resemble the conditions hypothesised on these icy moons.

Ice formed above and/or in proximity of methane seeps in the Arctic sea might provide the right substratum to characterise methane occurrences elsewhere in the Solar System.

Fulvio Franchi visited Zoltán Juhász at the spectroscopy laboratory at Atomki in Debrecen in Hungary through the Europlanet Expert Exchange programme. The aim of the visit was to start to develop a method to prepare natural ice from the Arctic for analysis and run mass spectroscopy for the characterisation of the methane contents. The work will continue back in Botswana where the lessons learnt will help improve the spectroscopy labs.

The main goals of this visit were as follows:

  1. Initiate a new collaboration between Botswana and Hungary for the investigation of potential analogues of Icy Moons;
  2. Train the applicant on the practical aspects on how to run a successful spectral facility in view of the development of a spectroscopy lab at BIUST.
  3. Widening the participation in Europlanet activities by creating a new collaboration between Africa and underrepresented country in EU;
  4. Involve into Europlanet project new potential stakeholders currently active in the study of climate but with potential interest in the field of planetary science.

This visit kick-started a new collaboration between BIUST and Atomki and has benefitted from the collaboration of Prof Panieri at CAGE institute of The Arctic University of Norway, which is active in the field of climate studies, and has shown interest in planetary science.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

The final call for the Europlanet 2024 RI Expert Exchange Programme closed on Wednesday 17 January 2024. Visits should take place between 1 February and 15 May 2024.