Toward Detecting Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons on Planetary Objects with ORIGIN

Kipfer, K. A.; Ligterink, N. F. W.; Bouwman, Jordy; Schwander, L.; Grimaudo, V.; de Koning, C. P.; Boeren, N. J.; Keresztes Schmidt, P.; Lukmanov, R.; Tulej, M.; Wurz, P.; Riedo, A. (2022). Toward Detecting Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons on Planetary Objects with ORIGIN. The planetary science journal, 3(2), p. 43. IOP Publishing 10.3847/PSJ/ac4e15

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found on various planetary surfaces in the solar system. They are proposed to play a role in the emergence of life, as molecules that are important for biological processes could be derived from them. In this work, four PAHs (pyrene, perylene, anthracene, and coronene) were measured using the ORganics Information Gathering INstrument system (ORIGIN), a lightweight laser desorption ionization-mass spectrometer designed for space exploration missions. In this contribution, we demonstrate the current measurement capabilities of ORIGIN in detecting PAHs at different concentrations and applied laser pulse energies. Furthermore, we show that chemical processing of the PAHs during measurement is limited and that the parent mass can be detected in the majority of cases. The instrument achieves a 3σ detection limit in the order of femtomol mm−2 for all four PAHs, with the possibility of further increasing this sensitivity. This work illustrates the potential of ORIGIN as an instrument for the detection of molecules important for the emergence or presence of life, especially when viewed in combination with previous results by the instrument, such as the identification of amino acids. ORIGIN could be used on a lander or rover platform for future in situ missions to targets in the solar system, such as the icy moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > NCCR PlanetS
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Kipfer, Kristina Anna, Ligterink, Niels Frank Willem, Schwander, Loraine, Riedo, Valentine, de Koning, Coenraad Pieter, Boeren, Nikita Jennifer, Keresztes Schmidt, Peter, Lukmanov, Rustam, Tulej, Marek, Wurz, Peter, Riedo, Andreas


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




IOP Publishing




Kristina Anna Kipfer

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2022 15:36

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:10

Publisher DOI:





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