Publications

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2005
Skelley, AM, Scherer JR, Aubrey AD, Grover WH, Ivester RHC, Ehrenfreund P, Grunthaner FJ, Bada JL, Mathies RA.  2005.  Development and evaluation of a microdevice for amino acid biomarker detection and analysis on Mars. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 102:1041-1046.   10.1073/pnas.0406798102   AbstractWebsite

The Mars Organic Analyzer (MOA), a microfabricated capillary electrophoresis (CE) instrument for sensitive amino acid biomarker analysis, has been developed and evaluated. The microdevice consists of a four-wafer sandwich combining glass CE separation channels, microfabricated pneumatic membrane valves and pumps, and a nanoliter fluidic network. The portable MOA instrument integrates high voltage CE power supplies, pneumatic controls, and fluorescence detection optics necessary for field operation. The amino acid concentration sensitivities range from micromolar to 0.1 nM, corresponding to part-per-trillion sensitivity. The MOA was first used in the lab to analyze soil extracts from the Atacama Desert, Chile, detecting amino acids ranging from 10-600 parts per billion. Field tests of the MOA in the Panoche Valley, CA, successfully detected amino acids at 70 parts per trillion to 100 parts per billion in jarosite, a sulfate-rich mineral associated with liquid water that was recently detected on Mars. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using the MOA to perform sensitive in situ amino acid biomarker analysis on soil samples representative of a Mars-like environment.

2002
Botta, O, Bada JL.  2002.  Extraterrestrial organic compounds in meteorites. Surveys in Geophysics. 23:411-467.   10.1023/a:1020139302770   AbstractWebsite

Many organic compounds or their precursors found in meteorites originated in the interstellar or circumstellar medium and were later incorporated into planetesimals during the formation of the solar system. There they either survived intact or underwent further processing to synthesize secondary products on the meteorite parent body. The most distinct feature of CI and CM carbonaceous chondrites, two types of stony meteorites, is their high carbon content (up to 3% of weight), either in the form of carbonates or of organic compounds. The bulk of the organic carbon consists of an insoluble macromolecular material with a complex structure. Also present is a soluble organic fraction, which has been analyzed by several separation and analytical procedures. Low detection limits can be achieved by derivatization of the organic molecules with reagents that allow for analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography. The CM meteorite Murchison has been found to contain more than 70 extraterrestrial amino acids and several other classes of compounds including carboxylic acids, hydroxy carboxylic acids, sulphonic and phosphonic acids, aliphatic, aromatic and polar hydrocarbons, fullerenes, heterocycles as well as carbonyl compounds, alcohols, amines and amides. The organic matter was found to be enriched in deuterium, and distinct organic compounds show isotopic enrichments of carbon and nitrogen relative to terrestrial matter.