Laboratory Astrophysics

I study meteorites (Space Rocks!) in the laboratory.  Meteorites are fragments of larger bodies such as asteroids, comets, or planets. They frequently make their ways to Earth and fall in random places. After their recovery, scientists study these space rocks for different aspects.

I study organic and mineral content of meteorites in situ using high spatial resolution FTIR microspectroscopy and micro-Raman spectroscopy.
Uniqueness of my experiments are

1) synchrotron radiation
2) high spatial resolution

1) Conventionally,  globar is used in experiments for FTIR spectroscopy as a light source, however synchrotron radiation is up to ~1000 times brighter (Brilliant!), therefore so much higher signal-to-noise ratio is achieved, revealing so much more information that is not available with globar. Here is a comparison of globar and synchrotron:

signal-to-noise

Figure 1. Comparison of synchrotron radiation and globar. (Credit: Mehmet Yesiltas)

2) High resolution is a key for obtaining spatial distribution of chemical components in small meteorite samples (~10-40 µm). To date, spatial resolution we have is the highest available (0.54 µm X 0.54 µm). As seen in Figure 2, image collected with synchrotron light reveals different absorbance localizations at 2921 cm-1, while globar light source makes any identification impossible.

 globar-orgueil

Figure 2. Infrared images of a meteorite sample collected with globar light source (left) and synchrotron radiation (right). (Credit: Mehmet Yesiltas, UCF)