A CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR FOR SUPERCAM ON THE PERSEVERANCE ROVER
Dr. Shiv Sharma
Tenured Research Professor
Dr. Shiv Sharma is a Tenured Research Professor at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is one of the Co-Principal Investigators for SuperCam on the Perseverance rover.
During his undergraduate studies, Shiv Sharma excelled in Chemistry, Physics and Math. He chose to pursue a PhD in Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi, India as his inspiration was none other than Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, an Indian physicist awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930 for his discovery of the Raman effect. So, when given the chance to work on a Raman spectroscopy project for his PhD thesis, Sharma was ecstatic. The research he conducted in the 1960s employed a laser, and since the laser was only discovered in the early ’60s, there was a great deal of opportunity for new developments in the field of laser Raman studies. Read more below.
MORE IN DEPTH WITH DR. SHARMA
After completing his Doctorate in physics, Dr. Sharma was searching for jobs and went to the library. He found a book by Professor David Adams who worked on high pressure Raman spectroscopy at the University of Leicester. Intrigued by the research, Dr. Sharma wrote him a letter, which followed with an offer for a position as Research Associate at the University of Leicester. During his time there he read many articles including the first paper on metallic hydrogen by Ye Yakovlev and another about high-pressure physics and the ability to reach pressures in the million-atmosphere range by Peter Bell et al., a senior scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institutions of Washington. These findings made Shiv excited about the possibility of investigating hydrogen into diamond cell at high pressures. He wrote a letter to Peter Bell who then passed on his letter to Dr. Hatten S. Yoder, Jr. (Hat for short), the Director of the Geophysical Laboratory who also happened to have been a graduate student at MIT, and was familiar with John Hibben’s seminal work1 at the Geophysical Laboratory in the field of Raman spectroscopy during C.V. Raman’s era. Dr. Sharma’s letter writing skills had once again helped him advance his career as he was asked to join their research team in the Geophysical Laboratory as a Postdoctoral Fellow. With the continuous support of Hat, Dr. Sharma secured a Raman spectrometer, which enabled him and his colleagues to collect data and write a paper about Raman measurements of hydrogen as a function of pressure.2
In 1980, Dr. Shiv Sharma became a Professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Several years later, he met Michael Angel, a postdoctoral fellow in Livermore at the time, at Pittcon-1986 (Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy). They stayed up late in the evenings talking about science, spectroscopy and optical fibers, and became fast friends. In 1996 a colleague, Dr. Paul Lucey approached Dr. Sharma and asked if it was possible to detect minerals from a distance. Dr. Sharma only did micro-Raman spectroscopy at the time and simply answered, “We don’t have a telescope.” Dr. Lucey came back to the lab with a telescope from his office and they set up the Raman spectrometer with it. Interestingly enough, Mike Angel who was now an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina had published a paper in 1992 on remote Raman measurements using a small telescope with a CW laser.3 In recent years, Dr. Angel and Dr. Sharma together have written proposals to NASA for developing a Spatial Heterodyne Raman spectrometer and their projects were funded.
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, Shiv demonstrated that a pulsed laser coupled with time-gating could be used to take Raman measurements in the daylight, which was revolutionary in more than one way. In addition to being resistance to ambient light and thermal emissions, fluorescence, which is intense and often interferes with Raman signals, could also be avoided. Time-gated Raman spectroscopy synchronizes the pulsed laser source with the sensitive detector so that it can detect the fast Raman signals during the short laser pulses and avoid fluorescence emissions which have longer delays. Professor Sharma and Professor Angel published the first paper on the remote pulsed Raman system in 2002, showing that mineral samples on planetary surfaces could be analyzed up to 66 meters away.4
The predecessor of the Perseverance rover, Curiosity, only has the capability of performing laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), which gives information about the atomic composition. The team at NASA wanted to learn more about the molecular structure of the samples, information which Raman spectroscopy could afford. In 2001, Dr. Sharma met Roger Wiens, the Principal Investigator of SuperCam at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Sharma offered some advice regarding Raman spectra measurements of minerals with a pulsed laser. The experiments took off and so did their friendship.
In 2004, Roger Wiens visited Professor Sharma’s lab in Hawaii to carry out experiments using LIBS techniques on minerals. They employed Professor Sharma’s Raman spectrometer in the lab and Roger’s LIBS spectrographs with a laser that excited samples at 532 nm and 1064 nm. They first observed Raman signals and as they continued to increase the laser-pulse energy, both Raman and LIBS spectra were observed simultaneously, a pleasant surprise that Professor Sharma attributes to luck. Roger Weins and Shiv Sharma wrote papers together5,6 and assembled a proposal for the Raman-LIBS system for SuperCam along with other colleagues from Europe and the US.
Shiv and his colleagues continue to develop the remote Raman-LIBS system and demonstrated that spectra of targets could be acquired at a distance of 246 meters with high signal to noise ratios using a pulsed laser at 532 nm. They wrote an article, which earned them the “Best Paper Award” by SAS/NASLIBS in 2020.7
When asked about how he deals with challenges, Professor Sharma answered, “My career path has been smooth other than having to adjust to new places and time zones.” After speaking to him and learning more about his personality, I realized something: it’s not that he’s been free of challenges, it’s his perspective and approach that are different and quite remarkable. He welcomes challenges with an open mind and open heart. He treats problems as obstacles in a game, excited about what he will find. When something doesn’t work, he follows an unknown path with curiosity. When he discovers something, he considers himself lucky. He practices meditation to keep himself grounded. His open-mindedness and love of science is what led him to stumble upon such unique and valuable findings in the field of applied spectroscopy. To date, he has published over 200 papers.
1) J.H. Hibben, Raman spectra in inorganic chemistry, Chem. Rev. 1933, 13(3), 345-478; Raman spectra in organic chemistry, Chem. Rev. 1936, 18(1), 1-232.
2) S.K. Sharma, H.K. Mao, P.M. Bell, Raman measurement of hydrogen in the pressure range 0.2-630 kbar at room temperature, Phys. Rev. Lett. 1980, 44, 886-888.
3) S.M. Angel, T.J. Kulp, T.M. Vess, Remote-Raman Spectroscopy at Intermediate Ranges Using Low-Power CW Lasers; Appl. Spectrosc. 1992, 46(7), 1085-1091.
4) S.K. Sharma, S.M. Angel, M. Ghosh, H.W. Hubble, P.G. Lucey, Remote Pulsed Laser Raman Spectroscopy System for Mineral Analysis on Planetary Surfaces to 66 Meters, Appl. Spectrosc. 2002, 56, 699-705.
5) R.C. Wiens, S.K. Sharma, J. Thompson, A. Misra, P. G. Lucey, Joint Analyses by Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Raman Spectroscopy at Stand-off Distances, Spectrochim Acta A 2005, 61, 2324-2334.
6) S.K. Sharma, A.K. Misra, P.G. Lucey, R.C. Wiens, S.M. Clegg, Combined remote LIBS and Raman spectroscopy of sulfur-containing minerals, and minerals coated with hematite and covered with basaltic dust at 8.6 m, Spectrochim. Acta, Part A 2007, 68, 1036-1045.
7) A.K. Misra, T.E. Acosta-Maeda, J.N. Porter, G. Berlanga, D. Muchow, S.K. Sharma, B. Chee, A Two Components Approach for Long Range Remote Raman and Laser-Induced Breakdown (LIBS) Spectroscopy Using Low Laser Pulse Energy, Appl. Spectrosc. 2019, 73(3), 320-328.
MEET THE OTHER SCIENTISTS
Professor Stanley Michael Angel is a Carolina Trustee Professor and Fred M. Weissman Palmetto Chair in Chemical Ecology, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina. He currently works on the SuperCam team as a Scientific Research Collaborator and Scientific Payload Download Leader (sPDL).
Roger Wiens is the Principal Investigator of SuperCam and one of the co-investigators of SHERLOC. In 2016, the government of France knighted Wiens for his contribution in forging strong bonds between the French and American scientific communities.
Sanford Asher, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, is involved with the development of the Raman spectrometer and the ultraviolet laser in SHERLOC.
Dr. Joseph Razzell Hollis is a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California where he works on the SHERLOC team and plays a key role in optimizing the data analysis pipeline.
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