Investigation of ion beam techniques for the analysis and exposure of particles encapsulated by silica aerogel: Applicability for Stardust
AuthorGraham, G. A.
Grant, P. G.
Chater, R. J.
Westphal, A. J.
Kearsley, A. T.
Butterworth, A. L.
McPhail, D. S.
Bradley, J. P.
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CitationGraham, G. A., Grant, P. G., Chater, R. J., Westphal, A. J., Kearsley, A. T., Snead, C., ... & Bradley, J. P. (2004). Investigation of ion beam techniques for the analysis and exposure of particles encapsulated by silica aerogel: Applicability for Stardust. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 39(9), 1461-1473.
PublisherThe Meteoritical Society
JournalMeteoritics & Planetary Science
AbstractIn 2006, the Stardust spacecraft will return to Earth with cometary and perhaps interstellar dust particles embedded in silica aerogel collectors for analysis in terrestrial laboratories. These particles will be the first sample return from a solid planetary body since the Apollo missions. In preparation for the return, analogue particles were implanted into a keystone of silica aerogel that had been extracted from bulk silica aerogel using the optical technique described in Westphal et al. (2004). These particles were subsequently analyzed using analytical techniques associated with the use of a nuclear microprobe. The particles have been analyzed using: a) scanning transmission ion microscopy (STIM) that enables quantitative density imaging; b) proton elastic scattering analysis (PESA) and proton backscattering (PBS) for the detection of light elements including hydrogen; and degrees C) proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) for elements with Z >11. These analytical techniques have enabled us to quantify the composition of the encapsulated particles. A significant observation from the study is the variable column density of the silica aerogel. We also observed organic contamination within the silica aerogel. The implanted particles were then subjected to focused ion beam (FIB) milling using a 30 keV gallium ion beam to ablate silica aerogel in site-specific areas to expose embedded particles. An ion polished flat surface of one of the particles was also prepared using the FIB. Here, we show that ion beam techniques have great potential in assisting with the analysis and exposure of Stardust particles.