LAMIS, which stands for Laser Ablation Molecular Isotopic Spectrometry,has won a 2012 R&D 100 award. It was developed by a research team in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The R&D 100 awards are also known as the “Oscars of Innovation.”
LAMIS is a technology that could loom large in the future of homeland security and planetary space exploration. LAMIS entails focusing the energy of a high-powered laser beam to a tiny spot on the surface of a sample to create a plasma plume for analysis. Each species of atoms or ions in the plasma will emit light with signature spectral emission peaks that can be measured to identify the specific isotopes of a chemical element within. LAMIS offers a green chemistry alternative to existing mass spectrometry techniques that is faster, less expensive and can be carried out from across vast distances. Requiring only a laser beam and an optical spectrometer to perform real-time isotopic analyses of samples at ambient pressures and temperatures, LAMIS represents what may be the only practical means of determining the geochronology of samples on Mars or other celestial bodies in the Solar System. It also has many important applications here on Earth including nuclear forensics aimed at non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. The LAMIS development team included Rick Russo and Xianglei Mao of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Osman Sorkhabi, now with the LAM Research Corporation, and Alexander Bol’shakov, now with Applied Spectra, which co-nominatedLAMIS with Berkeley Lab.