UV Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy

UV Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy are analytical methods that are exceptionally sensitive to the presence of large biological molecules and bacteria. Recent work has shown that under suitable conditions, it is possible by these means to detect as few as 5 to 10 bacteria on a surface and acquire some classification information at the same time. As progress is made in these analytical approaches over the next few years, it seems likely that an instrument of small size (approximately 1 to 2 liters volume, 2 kg mass and 4 to 5 watts power consumption) may become available that could be fitted within a probe to detect life in unusual environments, both on Earth, such as Lake Vostok, or on other worlds, such as Europa. Miniature UV lasers and flash lamps already exist, and as their operational wavelengths reach 220 to 250 nanometers, the detection of fragments of RNA and DNA will become possible.