What’s in a larval shell?

CACHE researcher Kirti Ramesh describes her recent secondment at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI):

“I have been working with Dr. Gernot Nehrke and learning all about Raman spectroscopy. At the AWI, I have been using an instrument called a confocal Raman microscope that helps me ‘look’ at what exactly my different larval shells are made of i.e are they aragonite, calcite or the elusive amorphous calcium carbonate! This is quite an interesting analytical method to learn about. In brief, the technique was developed by Sir CV Raman and utilises the vibrational modes of molecules to characterise them. What this means is that, light in the form of a laser is used to excite my samples. A small part of this light energy that excites my samples is scattered with a unique ‘fingerprint’ depending on the chemical bonds between the different molecules.

Polishing

The spectrograph with the help of a detector picks up this unique scattering and effectively tells me what I am looking at in my samples. Whilst learning about this technique, I have also been spending some time reading about Sir CV Raman himself. Did you know that he bought a ticket to travel to Europe for the Nobel Prize which he was confident he would win 5 months before they were announced? He did win the Nobel prize in physics in 1930 for describing this effect (Raman effect) where light is scattered depending on a molecules’ vibrational mode and was the first Asian to win the prize in science!”

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