Journal Highlight: KArMars: A breadboard model for in situ absolute geochronology based on the K–Ar method using UV-laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and quadrupole mass spectrometry

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  • Published: Dec 6, 2016
  • Author: spectroscopyNOW
  • Channels: Atomic
thumbnail image: Journal Highlight: KArMars: A breadboard model for in situ absolute geochronology based on the K–Ar method using UV-laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and quadrupole mass spectrometry
A breadboard prototype designed to perform in situ dating for planetary exploration is based on the K–Ar dating method and uses instruments inspired by flight-proven analytical components.

Image: NASA

KArMars: A breadboard model for in situ absolute geochronology based on the K–Ar method using UV-laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and quadrupole mass spectrometry

Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research, 2016, 40, 517-532
Damien Devismes, Pierre-Yves Gillot, Jean-Claude Lefèvre, Claire Boukari, Francis Rocard and Florence Chiavassa

Abstract: We present a breadboard prototype to perform in situ dating applicable to planetary exploration. Based on the K–Ar dating method and using instruments inspired by flight-proven analytical components, "KArMars" ablated a geological sample under high vacuum with a quadrupled ultraviolet (UV at 266 nm) Nd:YAG laser. During ablation, the K content of the target material was given by laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and the released 40Ar was measured with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. Because K was measured as a concentration and 40Ar as a count of atoms, these values were converted using the ablated mass given by the product of the density and the ablated volume. The uncertainties of the age measurement were < 15%. The quality of the K–Ar measurements was enhanced by the advantages of UV laser ablation such as the minimisation of thermal effects on argon diffusion. This work demonstrates that a specialised instrument inspired by this set-up could provide in situ absolute geochronology with sufficient precision for scientific investigations, particularly where the crater density counting provides higher uncertainties on Mars.

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