NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 B4.01-8696
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Space Market Driven Research
PROPOSAL TITLE: Fiber Optic Microcantilever Sensor Coupled with Reactive Polymers for Vapor Phase Detection of Ammonia

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Luna Innovations Incorporated
2851 Commerce Street
Blacksburg, VA 24060-6657

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Matthew S Hull
2851 Commerce Street
Blacksburg, VA 24060-6657

Luna Innovations proposes to adapt its current aqueous-based, fiber-optic microcantilever sensor technology for real-time, monitoring of ammonia in air. Phase I studies will focus on confirming sensor operation in a vapor-phase detection format and will build upon Luna's current NASA SBIR Phase II program to develop novel affinity microcantilever-based biosensors for monitoring bacterial and chemical contaminants in space-station water supplies. The biosensor is based on the principle that as target organisms or molecules bind to a reactive microcantilever beam, coating deformation caused by the binding event deflects the beam in proportion to the concentration of bound target. Using gold-based coupling chemistries, any assortment of reactive polymers, oligonucleotides, or other suitable ligand can be attached to multiple microcantilever beams in an array format. This allows discrimination of select targets from a complex mixture of other compounds. Using patented interferometric measurement and signal interrogation technology, researchers at Luna have confirmed microcantilever beam deflection with subnanometer sensitivity in water. During the proposed Phase I program, Luna will focus efforts on vapor phase detection of ammonia using novel reactive polymers developed. The microcantilever sensor inherently lends itself to multiplexing using micromachined arrays and can be integrated with virtually any type of air-sampling device.

The proposed research applies directly to NASA research focused on detection of toxic vapors. NASA is specifically concerned about monitoring for ammonia and hydrazine, which are associated with space-craft temperature regulation. Ammonia leaks in particular can damage couplings and jeopardize critical space-craft cooling features. More importantly, ammonia leakage within space-craft poses a danger to human health. The proposed sensor technology provides NASA with a low-cost, robust, real-time monitoring format for protection of both crew and space-craft.

The affinity microcantilevers will not only be useful for space-craft-based air monitoring applications, but also will be adaptable for numerous other applications including homeland defense, smart-building HVAC systems monitoring, water quality and environmental monitoring, food safety, process monitoring, and medical diagnostics.