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News Spectrum

Volume 29, Issue 2, pp. 12

Raman Spectroscopy To Be Used in European Mission to Mars

Madrid-based National Institute for Aerospace Technology, a public research organization specializing in aerospace research and technology development, will contribute to the ExoMars mission to Mars in 2018, with an instrument that uses Raman spectroscopy. The mission is led by the European Space Agency with contributions from Russia. Its objectives are to detect possible evidence of past or present life on Mars and to garner insights into the history of water on the planet.

After the ExoMars rover is on Mars' surface, a drill in the rover will collect samples up to 2 m beneath the Martian surface. The samples will be crushed into a fine powder and studied inside the rover's analytical laboratory.

"The Raman laser spectrometer will be used to analyze these samples, obtaining information about their mineralogy and chemical composition, and detect possible organic compounds" said Gerald Heidt, CEO of Wasatch Photonics, whose company made the high-performance, volume phase, holographic gratings that are used in this Raman instrument.

Advancing the Use of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in Combination with Clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Engineers from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth (Hanover, New Hampshire) and radiologists are developing new approaches for an emerging technique in diagnostic imaging for breast cancer that combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, as reported in the February issue of the journal Academic Radiology.

Combined MRI–NIR spectroscopy may benefit women whose mammograms showed an abnormality and require further testing to rule out cancer. The test would be conducted before an invasive biopsy to look for tumors. For the new method to work successfully in routine patient care, MRI–NIR spectroscopy must adapt to an individual's body size as well as accommodate a range of cup sizes. The equipment must also mobilize and maintain contact with the breast.

MRI–NIR spectroscopy testing may offer specific advantages to women with dense breasts, who are more likely to develop and die from breast cancer. A dense breast is harder for a radiologist to "see through" when using traditional imaging equipment, which reportedly lacks the sensitivity to penetrate the dense tissue. Standard breast screening is effective 77–97% of the time in a normal breast, but the precision falls to 63–89% when a breast is dense.

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