Searching for water on the Moon: LZH develops laser for polar regions18.12.2019 - 12:02
The probability of finding water or other volatiles is highest in the polar regions, as they are frozen within the polar ice. To detect them, the LZH is developing a laser for a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) system as part of the LUVMI-X project. The laser radiation of the system breaks down molecules into their atoms. This creates a plasma and the atoms send out a characteristic spectrum. The spectrum of this plasma can then be compared with spectra of known atomic compositions to determine the elements in the sample. In LUVMI-X the LZH, the Institute of Optical Sensor Systems of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and OHB System AG jointly work on the LIBS system.
Goal: Reliable under extreme coldness
Such a laser must not only be small, compact, and robust, but also function reliably even in extremely cold areas with temperatures well below -100 °C. Such temperatures are problematic for conventional laser systems. The finished system is to be tested by the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems on regolith simulant, a substance that is very similar to Moon dust. Of interest is, for example, how the plasma propagates in a vacuum and what parameters are necessary to make the measurement possible despite the difficult circumstances. The low-temperature tests will be carried out by OHB System AG, which also develops the optical head of the instrument.
One of the objectives of the LUVMI-X project is a laboratory prototype for pre-testing. In the long term, the laser system is to be integrated into a moon rover. The development of this rover and other measuring instruments is also part of the research project.
The “Lunar Volatile Mobile Instrumentation Extended” project (LUVMI-X) is funded by the European Union within the scope of the Horizon 2020 funding program and coordinated by Space Applications Services NV / SA.back to overview