The capability to analyze and detect the composition of distant samples (minerals, organics, and chemicals) in real time is of interest for detecting explosives, conducting geological surveying, mapping pollution — and perhaps even medical uses.
For the past 10 years, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa has been developing Raman systems suitable for measuring various chemicals from a safe “standoff” distance.
Shiv Sharma and Anupam Misra of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST) have used these systems for measuring aerosol scattering at Bellows Beach, O‘ahu, and the plume from the Hawai‘i Kilauea Volcano. The systems can be used for homeland security purposes—such as detecting homemade explosives—and environmental monitoring.
Sharma and Misra have also worked to develop an instrument to detect minerals and organics at low levels in the dust on surface, subsurface and rocks on Mars. These types of instruments will play an important role in planetary exploration — especially in NASA’s future Mars Sample Return Mission, Venus missions, and various lander and rover missions.
Closer to home, this type of remote sensing tools may also have medical applications, including a potential use as a screening tool for cancer.