NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 S1.09-9757
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Planetary Science
PROPOSAL TITLE: Very Low-Cost, Rugged, High-Vacuum System for Mass Spectrometers

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Creare Inc
P.O. Box 71
Hanover, NH 03755 - 3116
(603) 643-3800

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert Kline-Schoder
P.O. Box 71
Hanover, NH 03755 - 0071
(603) 640-2468

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 5 to 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
NASA, the DoD, DHS, and commercial industry have a pressing need for miniaturized, rugged, low-cost, high vacuum systems. Recent advances in sensor technology at NASA and other government laboratories, in academia, and in industry have led to the development of very small mass spectrometer detectors, as well as other analytical instruments needing high vacuum, such as scanning electron microscopes. However, the vacuum systems to support these sensors remain large, heavy, and power hungry. To meet this need, Creare proposes to build a miniaturized vacuum system based on a very small, rugged, and inexpensive-to-manufacture, molecular drag pump (MDP). The MDP is enabled by the development of a miniature, very high-speed (200,000 RPM), rugged, low-power, brushless, DC motor which will be optimized for wide temperature operation and long life during this project. The vacuum pump has performance that is well matched to the needs of the new generation of miniature analytical instruments. The pump represents an order-of-magnitude reduction in mass, volume, and cost over current, commercially available, state-of-the-art vacuum pumps. The new pump will form the heart of a complete vacuum system optimized to support analytical instruments in terrestrial applications as well as on spacecraft and planetary landers. Furthermore, the miniature high-speed motor will be designed so that it can be used in a wide range of high vacuum pumps, including pure molecular drag, pure turbomolecular, and hybrid turbomolecular/molecular drag pumps that can be tailored to the requirements of specific missions and applications.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
A number of current NASA initiatives seek to reduce the size and power requirement of scientific instruments. Success in these efforts will lead to new generations of sensors that can be deployed on smaller, less expensive platforms, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), balloons, microspacecraft, and miniature interplanetary probes. Our proposed rugged vacuum system directly supports these goals by reducing the size, weight and power consumption of vacuum systems required to run these instruments. In addition, the pump technology that we will develop under this program is currently baselined as a part of the MOMA instrument being developed (under NASA funding) by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for a 2013 Mars mission as well as part of the development of a NASA/GSFC, next-generation laser desorption time-of-flight mass spectrometer that has significantly improved capabilities and robustness for in situ astrobiology missions which were recently selected for funding under the NASA ASTID program.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Numerous commercial applications exist for the proposed rugged, low-cost vacuum system, primarily to support portable analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers and leak detectors. Current-generation devices are limited by the size and mass of their high vacuum and rough pumps, or else use less capable absorption pumps. Building a small, lightweight, rugged, low-cost, and low power high vacuum system whose performance is tuned to the needs of miniature detectors is expected to greatly expand the market for such devices. The pump technology to be developed under this proposal will be used in instruments being developed by one of our partners in portable mass spectrometers for use by the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

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.


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