MSc Defense: Final Oral Examination for the Degree Master of Science of Erin Flannigan

Event Details

  • Date:
  • Time: 10:30 AM
  • Location: MacN 415

Thesis Title

Emulating the Mars APXS with accelerator-based PIXE


A broad beam proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) system was designed in order to emulate and extend the calibration of Curiosity’s Alpha-Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). For calibration of the PIXE system, twenty pure element standards were used to determine the instrumental constant over a range of X-ray energies. The issue of the choice between theoretical mass attenuation coefficient databases, XCOM and FFAST, was addressed. Deviations of light element (sodium, magnesium, aluminum) concentrations previously seen in the APXS were also seen in the accelerator-based PIXE measurements. These deviations arise from the rock structure’s violation of the assumption of sample homogeneity on the atomic scale. Systematically low iron concentrations, which could not arise due to the homogeneity assumption, are likely due to the grain sizes in the powdered standards. Corrections for the deviations were determined and extended to Martian analog samples including basaltic trachyandesites, trachyandesites and trachytes.

Examination Committee

  • Dr. Robert Wickham, Chair
  • Dr. J. L. (Iain) Campbell, Co-advisor
  • Dr. Joanne O'Meara, Co-advisor
  • Dr. Ralf Gellert