Scientists are collaborating to develop a handheld spectroscopic device that can identify minerals on earth and other planets.
Robert Downs, associate professor of geosciences at The University of Arizona (UA), is working with M. Bonner
“We’re developing a tricorder,”
One use for a hand-held instrument would be the identification of gemstones. Other ways to accurately identify minerals, such as X-ray diffraction and electron microprobe, require grinding a bit of the sample to powder or polishing the sample in a specific manner. Raman spectroscopy is a non-destructive alternative.
A Raman spectrometer fires a laser beam at the sample. The laser excites atoms within the sample, which then emit a very weak light of a wavelength in a pattern characteristic of the material. The material is identified by comparing it with reference information from a database.