An international team of scientists, consisting of biologists, astronomers, chemists and geologists, has completed work on the first version of a fundamentally new instrument - the spectropolarimeter. The technology was named "TreePol", it is intended for remote search of living plants. In the future, this device will be able to detect other forms of life - moreover, on other planets.
The technology is based on the use of chiral molecules. They are able to scatter and reflect light, changing the properties of the electromagnetic wave. The molecules of a living plant are always arranged in chains that twist to the right or left, and this direction does not change until its very death. Due to this property, the light reflected by the plant has a characteristic circular polarization, to which the TreePol sensors react.
When biologist Lucas Patti tried to test the first TreePol prototype on a soccer field in Amsterdam, he got zero results. But as soon as the sensors were turned towards the city park, the device recorded a powerful structured radiation. Patti had no idea that the stadium had been using artificial turf instead of real grass for many years - so the device did not respond to it. These tests took place at the end of winter, and today the current version of TreePol confidently detects sources of polarized radiation from a distance of several kilometers. And thus it can determine, for example, which trees in the grove are alive, and which have already died and are drying up.
The TreePol project became possible only thanks to the consolidation of the efforts of specialists from different fields of science, today it is one of the most complex technologies in the world. Therefore, one should not expect new rapid successes, although the instrument is already ready for monitoring the state of the plant kingdom. With animals, things are more complicated, and as for aliens, there is a high probability that their bodies also consist of chiral molecules, and therefore can be detected by a spectropolarimeter. This means that if you install the device on a probe, send it to Europa (the satellite of Jupiter), and there it will detect the same radiation, we will know for sure that this world is inhabited.