From Mars to Earth

September 24, 2013

image RoverWas there life on Mars? This is a question that fascinates scientists and geologists all over the world. There are many similarities between Mars and Earth and by studying the surface morphology, chemical makeup, lithology, and geology of Mars we may begin to understand how our two planets turned out so differently. The evidence of life or prebiotic chemistry can be analyzed by identifying rock types and their chemistry. Scientists relied on robots and the rovers to go to Mars to gather meaningful data. The rovers carried a number of scientific instruments to analyze rocks including X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analyzers which measures elemental composition and mineralogy, respectively. To be able to go to Mars, these analyzers had to be portable and accurate. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover chose InXitu’s portable rock and mineral analyzer to study the geology and environment of selected areas. The commercial version of the CheMin is the Olympus Terra XRD. These modern day instruments can also help with mining, exploration, and environmental activities back on earth and with a much smaller budget.
Initially conceived to perform chemical and mineralogical testing for NASA’s MSL mission, Olympus’ Terra™ is a rugged, fully-portable field instrument which harnesses advanced dual XRD/XRF technology and renders it for earthbound applications. The conventional XRF/XRD analyzers were too large and by combining both Olympus and NASA’s innovation, the Terra brings to life a new way of performing XRD and XRF measurements. With minimal sample preparation, the Terra is a highly useful tool that will provide you with quantitative mineralogy in the mining field.
Along with quantitative mineralogy, another great tool that is highly beneficial to the mining industry is multi-element compositional data. The Olympus Delta Handheld XRF Analyzer provides fast, non-destructive elemental analysis. It can be used in the field for immediate results which determines the next course of action. The Delta brings the power and flexibility of handheld XRF spectrometry to the field. Ruggedized and ultraportable, this fast technology provides accelerated testing times, allowing for hundreds more tests to be conducted per day with analytical confidence. The Delta’s real overall value is to get large and inexpensive data sets and make decisions in real time with minimal reliance on off-site laboratory testing.

With Olympus’ expertise in XRF, they were able to combine both XRF and XRD to introduce the BTX Profiler. The BTX Profiler carries on the revolutionary XRD technology employed in NASA’s “Curiosity” Rover. It combines with the highly acclaimed, award winning Earth-bound technology employed in Olympus’ Analytical XRD and XRF Instruments. Building on NASA and Olympus patents, the BTX Profiler is a leap forward in the technology of combined XRD and XRF analysis. The BTX Profiler provides comprehensive compositional materials analysis at both the structural and elemental level. This multi-sample analyzer is the only instrument in the market that will give you both qualitative and quantitative XRF and XRD data.

image Terra

Another great instrument to use in the field is ASD’s Near-Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy analyzer. NIR allows rapid identification of mineral deposit alteration assemblages, including characterizing those associated with economic mineral deposits. This instrument measures the reflection or absorbance characteristics of light in a sample. NIR is non-destructive, requires little or no sample preparation and can examine irregular surfaces. You can easily convert measured data into actionable information to help optimize processes or improve research.
Some of these technologies that were invented for Mars have resulted in many applications on Earth. These compact and portable analyzers are being used in many applications such as oil and gas, mining and exploration, among other uses. XRF, XRD, and NIR are all technologies that are beneficial to the mining industry. These technologies not only save time and money but give real-time quantitative and qualitative data with minimal sample preparation. The large inexpensive datasets gathered during an on-site analysis make possible a large potential reduction in dollars spent on lab tests while providing immediate information for on-site decision making in advance of the lab.  This is a key component in shortening the exploration timeline and condensing field seasons, making the most of budgets and tight exploration schedules. By eliminating non-viable targets, drilling and prospecting can be focused on the most favourable areas, resulting in more rapid prioritization and substantial cost savings.

Northern ANI paired up with only the best technology companies to bring you innovative, intuitive, field durable, high performance analytical instruments to identify any element, any compound and any material whether it is in the lab, in the field or on Mars. Juniors and majors alike are experiencing the significant benefits of XRF, XRD, and NIR.

For more information and to learn how XRF, XRD and NIR are being utilized and can apply to your projects, please visit Northern ANI is an authorized distributor for ASD and Olympus, worldwide leaders in scientific equipment. Northern ANI brings a superior suite of analyzers to market that provides qualitative and quantitative material characterization for detection, identification, quality control, process control, regulatory compliance, research and development for numerous applications including metallurgy and geochemistry.

By Jyoti Grewal B.Sc., Technical Consultant, Northern ANI

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