Portrait of Dr. Sandy Asher in the Asher Group Laser Lab in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Technology using ultraviolet light to analyze and examine pieces of matter, invented by Sandy Asher, a distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, is expected to be an integral part of a mission to Mars scheduled to take off in 2020.
By Bill Vidonic
When NASA's Mars 2020 Rover soars into space on a quest to answer whether life exists on the Red Planet, it will likely carry a little bit of Pittsburgh with it.
Technology using ultraviolet light to analyze and examine pieces of matter, invented by Sandy Asher, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, is expected to be an integral part of the mission. If successful, Asher said he expects that technology will “be on all interplanetary missions.”
The Navy uses the technology to determine whether there are traces of explosives on an object, he said. It's been used to examine protein structures. Asher said that most diseases are caused by mutations in proteins, and understanding the protein structures could help in medical research.
Asher didn't have goals as lofty as Mars when he first began working on the technology, called UV Raman spectroscopy, more than 30 years ago.
“I was looking at nearer-term things,” he said. Much of his research while at Pitt has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, which supplied more than $20 million.
The laser technology will be integrated into the SHERLOC project, which stands for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals.
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
2014: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium
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