MECA magnet substrates – Københavns Universitet

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MECA magnet substrates

The MECA magnets are ten sets of magnets mounted on the sample wheel of the MECA microscopy station. MECA is short for Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Assessment.

The MECA microscopy station

MECA microscopy station. Image Credit: NASA-JPL/Imperial College London/NBI-UCPH.

The MECA microscopy station consists of an optical microscope and an atomic force microscope (AFM). Ten sets of six MECA substrates can be studied by both instruments and two of the substrates in each set are magnets - one ‘strong’ and one ‘weak’.

Besides the magnets each substrate set contains four other substrates: two micro buckets, one silicon nanobucket and one ‘sticky’ silicone substrate. The sample substrates were all designed to collect and hold a sample supplied to the substrate, the magnets being the only substrates that actually actively attract a sample.

Sample delivery

The MECA substrates could be exposed to a sample either delivered using the scoop on the Robotic Arm, picking up samples from either the surface or the subsurface, or by dust sedimentation from the atmosphere directly onto the substrates.

First AFM on Mars

The MECA AFM was the first AFM ever to be used outside Earth and the MECA optical microscope has the best resolution of any optical microscope on Mars so far (2016).

MECA science goals

The main science goals of the MECA AFM was to image single particles, both atmospheric dust particles and particles from the ground, and determine their size, shape and surface texture.


We also contributed the combined iSweep/CalTarget experiment on Phoenix.