NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Science Instruments for Conducting Solar System Exploration
PROPOSAL TITLE:Miniaturized, Low Power Cryogenic Inlet System with Sampling Probes for Titan

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Thorleaf Research, Inc.
5552 Cathedral Oaks Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93111-1406
(805) 692-4978

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Paul M. Holland
5552 Cathedral Oaks Road
Santa Barbara, CA  93111-1406
(805) 692-4978

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Thorleaf Research, Inc. has demonstrated feasibility in Phase 1 and now proposes a Phase 2 effort to develop a miniature, low power cryogenic inlet system with sampling probes for Titan. This addresses a key technology gap for planetary studies, mainly how to acquire and prepare complex cryogenic samples of astrobiology interest for in situ analysis while meeting challenging mass, volume and power constraints. The proposed sampling system is designed to collect surface samples at Titan's 94K (-179C) cryogenic temperatures using two different miniature probe designs, one for collecting atmospheric aerosols, dust or particles, and another for surface penetration. The samples, which are presumed to include hydrocarbons, nitriles, tholins and other materials, can then be thermally processed by vaporization, thermal desorption or pyrolysis to prepare them for chemical analysis by GC/MS, GC/IMS or other techniques. Our Phase 1 results have demonstrated feasibility for developing a miniaturized cryogenic sampling inlet system with sampling probes weighing on the order of 100g with a peak power consumption of 20 watts or less. Because vaporization, thermal desorption or pyrolysis heating would only be required for a few seconds during each chemical analysis duty cycle, we project average power usage at a fraction of a watt.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Future Titan missions are likely to employ Montgolfiere aerial vehicles for mobility, severely limiting payload due to their dependence on buoyancy in the atmosphere. Our Phase 1 results demonstrate that it should be possible to develop the proposed cryogenic inlet system with combined vaporization, thermal desorption and pyrolysis capability at a mass on the order of 100g, only a few percent of the mass of the Aerosol Collector Pyrolyser system of the Huygens probe. Since mission concept planning for a future aerial vehicle for Titan already includes a GC/MS instrument, the addition of Thorleaf Research's proposed cryogenic inlet system with sampling probes could significantly enhance mission capability with little impact on payload mass. With our modular design approach, this system can also be adapted for NASA Space Exploration Initiative needs, such as monitoring for microbial contaminates in space habitats and process monitoring for the extraction of planetary resources.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Analysis of commercial instrumentation markets shows that two of the three major growth areas for analytical instrumentation are real-time analysis and environmental monitoring, with projected annual growth rates of more than 15%. Our modular design approach for the cryogenic inlet system with sampling probes will help make it adaptable for in situ thermal processing of samples, including pyrolysis, for scientific and energy exploration applications. Thus, technical developments in the proposed program could have a significant market impact.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

Form Printed on 07-25-06 17:04