New Lasers Fight Crime, Martians

new technique that uses a laser to vaporize materials like rocks and steel to analyze their chemical composition is finding new applications from Mars to forensics.
Thanks to its relatively small size and low cost, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy is emerging from the laboratory and turning into a precise tool for figuring out what something is made of. What had been a technique largely for scientists now can be transformed into a tough, small system that can be operated by a technician instead of a PhD.
“The same things that make it amenable to go to Mars also make it amenable to go out in the field,” said Jose Almirall, a chemist at Florida International University who has a grant from the Department of Justice to explore how crime labs can use the technology.
NASA will be deploying a LIBS system called the “ChemCam” on its new Mars rover, now named Curiosity and scheduled to launch next year.