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New Technology Searches Space Dust for Amino Acids

Michael Callahan and his team at Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory have recently applied advanced technology to inspect extremely small meteorite samples for the components of life.

The team used a nanoflow liquid chromatography instrument to sort the molecules in the meteorite sample, then applied nanoelectrospray ionization to give the molecules an electric charge and deliver them to a high-resolution mass spectrometer instrument, which identified the molecules based on their mass.

"We found amino acids in a 360 microgram sample of the Murchison meteorite," said Callahan. "This sample size is 1,000 times smaller than the typical sample size used."

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