Sandrine Péron, “Understanding the origins of life”

Fellow 2017 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science, Sandrine Péron focuses on the origins of the elements necessary to live on Earth.

When it comes to the origins of the solar system, the planets and life, many questions remain unanswered. How elements that are essential for life, such as water, nitrogen and carbon, came to be on Earth remains a mystery, for example.

This is exactly what Sandrine Péron, a PhD student from Université Paris 7 is focusing her research on. She works in the laboratory of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, where she is a member of the Cosmochemistry, Astrophysics and Experimental Geophysics team. The researcher uses noble gases like helium and neon to trace the sources of these elements and so analyze samples from one of the oldest parts of the Earth, the lower layer. The noble gases are analyzed in two stages.

First, gas bubbles in the samples are located using a 3D imaging technique called “x-ray microtomography.

Then, once they have been located, the gas bubbles are pierced one by one with a laser. in order to measure the noble gases that they contain. “This method has the advantage of eliminating atmospheric contamination, since only the contents of the bubbles are analyzed and not the whole sample”.

The young Breton, who is also fascinated by volcanoes (she has already explored those in Italy, Hawaii and the Vanuatu Islands), therefore hopes that her findings will help determine the precise composition of the Earth. In the long term, these results could help prepare for space missions and be used to analyze the samples collected.

Watch her performance in video and let us know @4womeninscience

For Women in Science

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