Chemical and Optical Identification of Micrometer-Sized 1.9 Billion-Year-Old Fossils by Combining a Miniature Laser Ablation Ionization Mass Spectrometry System with an Optical Microscope

Reto Wiesendanger, David Wacey, Marek Tulej, Anna Neubeck, Magnus Ivarsson, Valentine Grimaudo, Pavel Moreno-García, Alena Cedeño-López, Andreas Riedo, Peter Wurz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The recognition of biosignatures on planetary bodies requires the analysis of the putative microfossil with a set of complementary analytical techniques. This includes localized elemental and isotopic analysis of both, the putative microfossil and its surrounding host matrix. If the analysis can be performed with spatial resolution at the micrometer level and ppm detection sensitivities, valuable information on the (bio)chemical and physical processes that influenced the sample material can be gained. Our miniaturized laser ablation ionization mass spectrometry (LIMS)-time-of-flight mass spectrometer instrument is a valid candidate for performing the required chemical analysis in situ. However, up until now it was limited by the spatial accuracy of the sampling. In this contribution, we introduce a newly developed microscope system with micrometer accuracy for Ultra High Vacuum application, which allows a significant increase in the measurement capabilities of our miniature LIMS system. The new enhancement allows identification and efficient and accurate sampling of features of micrometer-sized fossils in a host matrix. The performance of our system is demonstrated by the identification and chemical analysis of signatures of micrometer-sized fossil structures in the 1.9 billion-year-old Gunflint chert.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1080
Number of pages10
JournalAstrobiology
Volume18
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

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