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NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Hydrothermal Vent Bio-sampler
2006 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This MSc diploma thesis work in Space Engineering has been performed at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where one of the projects included the construction and development of a hydrothermal vent bio-sampler. On the bottom of the oceans with volcanic activity, hydrothermal vents can be found which spew out mineral-rich superheated water from the porous seafloor crust. Some of these vents are situated several thousand meters below the surface, where sunlight never reaches. Yet life thrives there on the minerals and chemical compounds, which the vent water brings up with it. This chemosynthetic microbial community forms the basis of some of the most interesting ecosystems on our planet, and could possibly also be found on other water-rich planets and moons in the solar system. Perhaps hydrothermal vents exist under the icy surface of the moon Europa with a biota thriving independently of the solar energy. The Hydrothermal Vent Bio-sampler (HVB) will be a system to collect pristine samples of the water emanating from subsurface hydrothermal vents. An array of temperature and flow sensors will monitor the sampling conditions, which will allow for the samples to be collected from defined locations within the vent plume. From this the diversity and distribution of the chemosynthetic communities, which might live there, can be accurately described. The samples will have to be taken without any contamination from the surrounding water, thus the pristine requirement. Monitoring the flow will assure that enough water has been sampled to account for the low biomass of these environments. The system will use a series of filters, down to 0.2 micrometer in pore size, and the samples can be directly collected from the system for both culture- and molecular-based biological analyses. The HVB now in its development and testing phase, is designed to operate under the extreme conditions at the bottom of the oceans by the hydrothermal vents. This means that the system needs to handle temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius and pressures corresponding to the depth of about 7000 km below the ocean surface. After testing at a hydrothermal vent system in the Eyjafjördur fjord off the coast of Iceland the previous year, modifications and improvements were made to the HVB. This system has, amongst others, now successfully passed the pressure test at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and an ocean test off the coast of Los Angeles. The system was also returned to Eyjafjördur on Iceland earlier this spring for a new test and to collect samples. These samples will now be analyzed to look for any possible biological signatures in them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Technology, space, astrobiology, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, hydrothermal vents, deep-sea vents, extreme life, hydrotherma vent bio-sampler
Keyword [sv]
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-55768ISRN: LTU-EX--06/178--SELocal ID: c9875609-ba17-44a4-b5ca-d66ce1e6c5feOAI: diva2:1029152
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Space Engineering, master's level
Validerat; 20101217 (root)Available from: 2016-10-04 Created: 2016-10-04Bibliographically approved

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