About the presentation:
The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is a micro-focus X-ray fluorescence instrument selected by NASA for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission. PIXL generates high flux X-ray beams which hit the surface of rock/soil samples, causing the surface to emit light in a process known as fluorescence. Analyzing the energies and intensities of the emitted light from the sample provides fine-scale identification of elemental composition of tiny features as small as a grain of salt. PIXL would be mounted on the rover’s robotic arm and is able to rapidly measure the major and minor elements in 5-10 seconds. The key part of this instrument is the sensor head, consisting of an X-ray source, two silicon drift detectors, and an optical fiducial system. The measurements performed by PIXL will enable detailed insights to the processes of rock formation and alteration, which is important to seek potential evidence of past life and biosignatures on Mars.
About the speaker:
Sevan Menachekanian holds a B.S. in Applied Chemistry, and a M.S. in Physical Chemistry from Cal Poly Pomona. As an undergraduate, he worked with the PIXL team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where he investigated the photochemical effects of X-ray beams generated by an instrument similar to PIXL on chemical composition of organic materials commonly reported from the terrestrial rock records. During his graduate studies, he designed and optimized a low frequency near-infrared Raman microscope for the liquid and solid-state sample analysis. Currently, Sevan is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California (USC). His area of research is to probe how molecules behave differently when going from bulk to the surface or interfaces, using ultrafast laser spectroscopic techniques such as vibrational sum frequency generation (VSFG) and second harmonic generation (SHG). Studying the physics and chemistry of interfaces is important for a wide range of technological applications such as electrochemical energy storage, photovoltaics, and sensor devices.
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