Compact Color Biofinder, developed by a team of the University of Hawaii in Mānoa researchers, is an innovative scientific tool that could transform the game into a quest for the signs of external life.
Many biological substances, for example, amino acids, fossils, sedimentary rocks, plants, bacteria, proteins, and lipids, have robust organic fluorescence markers that unique scanning cameras can detect. In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports recently, a team of researchers reported that Biofinder is so sensitive that it can accurately detect fish fossils from the formation of the Green River at 34-56 million years.
“Biofinder is the first of its kind,” said Anupam Misra, a leading metal developer and researcher at the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). “No other device can detect bio-residual values on a rock in the daylight.
Although Biofinder was first introduced in 2012 by Misra, developments based on the NASA PICASSO system culminated in the latest color version of the compact Biofinder.
Finding evidence of fossils on a vast planet is a significant challenge. Therefore, the team evaluated Biofinder’s ability to detect ancient Green River fish fossils and validated the results by analyzing laboratory spectroscopy, electron microscopy scanning, and fluorescence imaging microscopy for life.
“There is something unknown about how bio-residues are quickly converted to minerals in the fossilization process,” Misra said. “However, our findings also confirm that fossils can live for millions of years, and that biofluorescence imaging finds these fossils in real time.”
The search for life — potentially or extinct — in planetary bodies is one of the main objectives of planetary spacecraft developed by NASA and other international spacecraft.