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An innovative scientific instrument, the Compact Color Biofinder, developed by a team of University of Hawai'i at Manoa researchers, may change the game in the search for signs of extraterrestrial life.

Most biological materials, for example, amino acids, fossils, sedimentary rocks, plants, microbes, proteins and lipids, have strong organic fluorescence signals that can be detected by specialized scanning cameras. In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports recently, the research team reported that the Biofinder is so sensitive that it can accurately detect the bio-residue in fish fossils from the 34-56 million year-old Green River formation.

"The Biofinder is the first system of its kind," said Anupam Misra, lead instrument developer and researcher at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). "At present, there is no other equipment that can detect minute amounts of bio-residue on a rock during the daytime. Additional strengths of the Biofinder are that it works from a distance of several meters, takes video and can quickly scan a large area."

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