Testing the 'Chemical Laptop'

In 2016, JPL did a test at the JPL Mars Yard. At the test yard, they placed the Chemical Laptop on a Mars Test Rover. “This was the first time we [showed how the] instrument works outside of the laboratory setting. This is the first step toward demonstrating a totally portable and automated instrument that can operate in the field,” said Fernanda Mora. In this test, the Chemical Laptop analyzed a sample of Green Rust. “[Green Rust is a] mineral that absorbs organic molecules in its layers and may be significant in the origin of life,” wrote Elizabeth Landau. “Our ultimate goal is to put a detector like this on a spacecraft such as a Mars rover, so for our first test outside the lab we literally did that,” said Peter Willis. Since then, Mora has been working to improve the sensitivity of the Chemical Laptop so it can detect even smaller amounts of Amino or Fatty acids. As of August 2017, the instrument can detect concentrations as low as parts per trillion. Mora is currently testing a new laser and detector technology to do that.

The 'Chemical Laptop' on a test rover at JPL's Mars Test Yard