Potential for analysis of carbonaceous matter on Mars using Raman spectroscopy

Ian B. Hutchinson*, John Parnell, Howell G. M. Edwards, Jan Jehlicka, Craig P. Marshall, Liam V. Harris, Richard Ingley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars rover will be launched in 2018. The primary aim of the mission will be to find evidence of extinct or extant life by extracting samples from the subsurface of Mars. The rover will incorporate a drill that is capable of extracting cores from depths of up to 2 m, a Sample Preparation and Distribution System (SPDS) that will crush the core into small grains and a suite of analytical instruments. A key component of the analytical suite will be the Raman Laser Spectrometer (RLS) that will be used to probe the molecular and mineralogical composition of the samples. In this work we consider the capability of the proposed Raman spectrometer to detect reduced carbon (possibly associated with evidence for extinct life) and to identify the level of thermal alteration/maturity. The Raman analysis of 21 natural samples of shale (originating from regions exhibiting different levels of thermal maturity) is described and it is shown that reduced carbon levels as low as 0.08% can be readily detected. It is also demonstrated that the Raman spectra obtained with the instrument can be used to distinguish between samples exhibiting high and low levels of thermal maturity and that reduced carbon can be detected in samples exposed to significant levels of oxidation (as expected on the surface of Mars).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-190
Number of pages7
JournalPlanetary and space science
Early online date26 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2014


  • Carbonaceous matter
  • Mars
  • Planetary exploration
  • Raman spectroscopy


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