Martian spectrometer ready for food and drug analysis

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A spectrometer designed to fit on a spacecraft sent to Mars is now available for applications that require extremely compact instruments following the spin out of the technology from the UK government's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The spin out company is called Keit and its spectrometer is small enough to be fitted on many production lines for food or pharmaceuticals to check, for example, the fat content of milk, or the origin and quality of whisky. The technology was designed to measure water vapour on Mars. It is extremely compact and highly accurate, and was designed to measure gases in planetary atmospheres from its orbital position, while being able to withstand the harsh conditions in space.

Dr Hugh Mortimer is a research scientist at STFC’s RAL Space, and inventor of the technology. He said: ‘Mass is a real commodity on board space satellites, so we developed a very high performance spectrometer which was also extremely stable and compact. We quickly realised that there were also some very real non-space application opportunities for this, ranging from R&D, to food production, environmental monitoring and agriculture, just to name a few. ‘

Longwall Ventures and the Rainbow Seed Fund have invested in Keit, which will now take its patented technology forward towards full commercialisation. Keit has also been awarded a place at the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation centre, based in Oxfordshire. The incubation centre provides an environment for fledgling companies to translate space technologies and applications into viable businesses in non-space industries.