Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Engineering Science


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Collaborative Specialization

Planetary Science and Exploration


Sabarinathan, Jayshri

2nd Supervisor

Flemming, Roberta L.



The aim of this thesis work is to develop initial designs for, and prototype components of, a portable and miniaturized In-situ X-ray diffractometer (ISXRD) to be mounted on a future Mars rover for planetary exploration applications. This is part of a larger ongoing Canadian Space Agency (CSA)-funded FAST (Flights for the Advancement of Science and Technology) program involving several university and industry partners. The Western-led team of researchers is developing the ISXRD for mineralogical characterization of planetary surfaces through non-destructive analysis of in situ materials. In collaboration with industry partner Proto Manufacturing, extensive testing of experimental parameters and instrument components was undergone to better understand the requirements of the proposed ISXRD instrument. From these findings, a preliminary prototype design has been developed. With continued development of this work, a first-of-its-kind miniaturized ISXRD instrument will be built.

Summary for Lay Audience

A Western-led team of researchers is developing a miniaturized in situ X-ray diffractometer (ISXRD) for planetary exploration applications on the arm of a future Mars rover. This project is funded by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) FAST (Flights for the Advancement of Science and Technology) program. It is a collaborative project involving several Canadian universities and industry partners. An X-ray diffractometer (XRD) is a device used to analyze the crystal structure of materials, such as rock materials on the surface of Mars. This analysis provides information on the mineralogy of the material. An XRD instrument operates by directing an X-ray beam originating from an X-ray tube towards a sample material. This beam, referred to as the incident beam, interacts with the atomic structure of the material resulting in diffracted X-rays which correspond to its mineral structure. These diffracted X-rays, making up the diffracted beam, are then recorded by an X-ray detector. Analysis of the detector data allows for the characterization of the sample mineralogy. An in situ XRD is used to analyze materials non-destructively at the location of the material which preserves contextual information. This can aid in the understanding of the history of the rock formation and possible indications for the presence of past water, among other things. The work of this thesis involves the development of the instrument from its initial concept design into a preliminary prototype design. Extensive testing and analysis were done to better understand the requirements for the operation of a miniaturized ISXRD on a remote surface. This testing was done in collaboration with Proto Manufacturing. A preliminary prototype design was developed as informed by the data acquired and analyzed for this thesis. This included the identification of optimal scanning parameters, beam optics, and X-ray tube and detector components. The next steps for the project are the assembly and verification of a working ISXRD prototype which will further develop this body of work towards a first-of-its-kind miniaturized ISXRD instrument.

Available for download on Thursday, May 01, 2025