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Rapid Active Sampling Package

A field-deployable, battery-operated tool enables rock sampling in the field.

A field-deployable, battery-powered Rapid Active Sampling Package (RASP), originally designed for sampling strong materials during lunar and planetary missions, shows strong utility for terrestrial geological use. The technology is proving to be simple and effective for sampling and processing materials of strength. Although this originally was intended for planetary and lunar applications, the RASP is very useful as a powered hand tool for geologists and the mining industry to quickly sample and process rocks in the field on Earth.

The RASP allows geologists to surgically acquire samples of rock for later laboratory analysis. This tool, roughly the size of a wrench, allows the user to cut away swaths of weathering rinds, revealing pristine rock surfaces for observation and subsequent sampling with the same tool. RASPing deeper (≈3–5 cm) exposes single rock strata in-situ. Where a geologist’s hammer can only expose unweathered layers of rock, the RASP can do the same, and then has the added ability to capture and process samples into powder with particle sizes less than 150 microns, making it easier for XRD/XRF (x-ray diffraction/x-ray fluorescence). The tool uses a rotating rasp bit (or two counter-rotating bits) that resides inside or above the catch container. The container has an open slot to allow the bit to extend outside the container and to allow cuttings to enter and be caught. When the slot and rasp bit are in contact with a substrate, the bit is plunged into it in a matter of seconds to reach pristine rock.

A user in the field may sample a rock multiple times at multiple depths in minutes, instead of having to cut out huge, heavy rock samples for transport back to a lab for analysis. Because of the speed and accuracy of the RASP, hundreds of samples can be taken in one day. RASP-acquired samples are small and easily carried. A user can characterize more area in less time than by using conventional methods. The field-deployable RASP used a Ni/Cad rechargeable battery. Power usage was less than 1 W-h/cm3 even when sampling strong basalts, so many samples could be taken on a single battery charge.

The prototype field RASP was equipped with a load tube in which sealable sample containers were inserted. Positioning the tool upside-down conveniently loaded the sample containers with powdered rock samples. This technology could be adapted to existing battery-operated rotary tools, or could be used as a stand-alone sampling tool.

This work was done by Gregory Peters of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-44946