Date of Original Version




Published In

Intelligent Data Analysis, Vol. 6, Issue 6 (2002), 517-531.

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Abstract or Table of Contents

The ability to identify the mineral composition of rocks and soils is an important tool for the exploration of geological sites. Even though expert knowledge is commonly used for this task, it is desirable to create automated systems with similar or better performance. For instance, NASA intends to design robots that are sufficiently autonomous to perform this task on planetary missions. Spectrometer readings provide one important source of data for identifying sites with minerals of interest. Reflectance spectrometers measure intensities of light reflected from surfaces over a range of wavelengths. Spectral intensity patterns may in some cases be sufficiently distinctive for proper identification of minerals or classes of minerals. For some mineral classes, carbonates for example, specific short spectral intervals are known to carry a distinctive signature. Finding similar distinctive spectral ranges for other mineral classes is not an easy problem. We propose and evaluate data-driven techniques in two stages: first, evaluating algorithms to identify which components are probably present in a given rock; second, trying to improve this classification by automatically searching for spectral ranges optimized for specific classes of minerals. In one set of studies, we partition the whole interval of wavelengths available in our data into sub-intervals, or bins, and use a genetic algorithm to evaluate a candidate selection of subintervals. As an alternative to these computationally expensive search techniques, we present an entropy-based heuristic that gives higher scores for wavelengths more likely to distinguish between classes. Results are presented for four different classes, showing reasonable improvements in identifying some, but not all, of the mineral classes tested.


Received 11 March 2002 Revised 30 March 2002 Accepted 5 April 2002

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