Identification of β-carotene in an evaporitic matrix–evaluation of Raman spectroscopic analysis for astrobiological research on Mars

Vítek, Petr; Jehlicka, Jan; Edwards, Howell G. M.; Osterrothová, Katerina
April 2009
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Apr2009, Vol. 393 Issue 8, p1967
Academic Journal
Since evaporitic rocks on the Martian surface could (or still can) serve as potential habitats for microbial life on Mars, there is a reasonable possibility that these rocks may sustain molecular remnants as evidence for the presence of extinct or extant living organisms on Mars and that β-carotene could be a suitable biomarker. In this paper, Raman microspectrometry was tested as a nondestructive method of determining the lowest detectable β-carotene content in experimentally prepared evaporitic matrices—namely, gypsum, halite and epsomite. Two excitation wavelengths were compared—514.5 nm, because of the resonance Raman enhancement in the carotenoid analysis, and 785 nm, as a more universal wavelength now much used in the detection of biomolecules terrestrially. Mixtures were measured directly as well as with a laser beam penetrating the crystals of gypsum and epsomite. We have obtained β-carotene signals at the 0.1 to 10 mg kg−1 level—the number of registered β-carotene Raman bands differed depending on the particular mineral matrix and the excitation wavelength. Concentrations of β-carotene of about one order of magnitude higher were identified when analysed through single crystals of gypsum and epsomite, respectively.


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