I want it, I want it, I want it
NASA plans to launch their next mission to Mars in 2009, and onboard will be the Mars Science Laboratory, a bigger, better incarnation of the two Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2004. On board will be a tiny laser devise about the size of a cell phone, which will be able to fingerprint minerals in the Martian soil and rocks. The results will be put into a data base which reside on Mars.
So we can start off with border patrol. I know that Miami Police Department has about 220,000 spectra of all the illicit drugs that are out there in the world. You just take these things, you can shoot them and ten seconds later you know what they’re holding: is it baby powder, is it cocaine? Real easy to tell. This little white powder that came in envelopes that the post office was getting? This stuff you can shoot - Bonner Denton has a demonstration he uses upstairs. He takes a bottle of Tylenol.
white plastic container and the pills are inside. You can shoot the Raman and the laser goes through that white plastic, it identifies the three parts of Tylenol the aspirin and it tells you what the plastic is made out of. It works on leaves – I can identify the species of trees by shooting their leaves. I don’t think the biologists are aware of this yet. I have a friend who collects snakeskins, I shot the snakeskins and I can identify the species of snake. Last month researchers in Switzerland showed that with the Raman instrument they could detect breast cancer. So we don’t know where this is going, it’s a brand new technology basically made because NASA funded it to make it cheaper, created the new optics and so on. And then we have people like Mike Scott, who’s willing to put their own pocket money out to actually create the databases required to identify things.
This is very cool stuff, the ability to accurately identify rock compositions instantly in the field would be great, law enforcement applications, scientific and medical. Definitely a device with market potential - the issue of costs could be beaten if it can have a large enough demand.