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Contact: Mike Wall
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

Guiding Ions Home

Caption: The next generation of Mars rovers will use mass spectrometers to search for signs of life, such as amino acids, on the Red Planet. Most current mass spectrometers rely heavily on airflow to guide ionized soil samples through an inlet, down a channel and into a trap for analysis. But this system is less than ideal for Mars missions like ExoMars, due to launch in 2018: airflow requires pumps, and pumps are heavy and energy-hungry. INL's new technology guides ions efficiently using versatile, complex electric fields. The invention could greatly reduce the need for pumps, helping make ExoMars' life-detecting tools smaller, cheaper and more sensitive.

Credit: Idaho National Laboratory

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Related news release: New INL invention could aid Mars probes' search for life

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