The Medicon Village Astrogeobiology Laboratory
The world’s only laboratory built for dissolving rocks in acids for separation of extraterrestrial spinels. We search for “needles in a haystack” but burn the haystack away.
The Astrogeobiology Laboratory is the scientific machinery used to extract the basal work material necessary for our research – the extraterrestrial mineral grains. This semi-industrial laboratory is designed to dissolve and process some 5 tons of rocks annually, yet minimize the risks of cross contamination and loss of material. In broad terms the mineral extracting process includes six steps:
- Dissolving limestone blocks in hydrochloric acid.
- Wet sieving of residuals from step 1 to remove particles smaller than 32 µm.
- Remove siliciclastic minerals remaining from step 2 by means of hydrofluoric acid digesting.
- Dividing residuals from step 3 in two size fractions: 32-63 µm and 63-355 µm, respectively.
- Handpicking of mineral grains under a stereo microscope.
- Elemental analyses of grains by means of SEM-EDS (Scanning Electron Microscopy- Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy) to determine if they are extraterrestrial or not.
In addition, the laboratory is developed to handle an array of unwanted terrestrial materials that sometimes remain after standard treatment such as pyrite, barite, fluorite, iron oxides, organic materials, etc.
The Medicon Village Astrogeobiology Laboratory is a world unique facility and provides invaluable cosmic material crucial for our understanding of the solar system history and our planet in an astronomical perspective.