NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-2 S1.09-8964
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Planetary Science
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lab on a Chip LCVR Polarimeter for Exploration of Life Signatures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc.
2520 W. 237th Street
Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6300

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Srivatsa Venkatasubbarao
2520 W. 237th Street
Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6344

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4 to 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Life on Earth is unique in many ways; one of its great mysteries is that the building blocks of life on Earth (amino acids, nucleotides, sugars) are all chiral. One optical isomer of each amino acid or nucleic acid was selected by evolution. In our pursuit of finding life on Mars and beyond (Triton, Europa, etc.), it is likely that one of the clues to extant or extinct life could be the detection of non-racemic chiral molecules. This proposal describes the development of a highly miniaturized and ultrasensitive lab-on-a-chip polarimeter that will meet the NASA need to measure chirality in very small volumes of samples at very high sensitivity. The proposal builds on a novel technology that is based on a proprietary design, in which a modulated liquid crystal variable retarder (LCVR) enhances sensitivity and reduces size without sacrificing performance. This detection principle with a long-path-length microfluidic flow cell allows for the measurement of chirality in microliter volumes of samples. The Phase I effort has conclusively demonstrated the technical feasibility of the detection principle. A miniaturized polarimeter with microfluidic flow cell was designed and fabricated. The polarimeter was calibrated and tested with samples. In Phase II, we will build, fully characterize, and deliver a miniature polarimeter with optimized performance, enhanced mechanical stability, and integrated fluid handling capability. The primary goals are to further improve the polarimeter's sensitivity, accuracy, size, weight, reproducibility, measurement speed, and power needs, conduct extensive testing, and deliver a robust prototype, engineering drawings, software, and test results to NASA.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed device will contribute to NASA's search for life beyond Earth. The detection of chirality on Mars and moons of Jupiter and Saturn could yield insights into the existence of previous or current life. The device could also be incorporated in the completely unmanned and automated next-generation miniaturized satellites such as "Pharmasat." The Pharmasat, which will study microorganism survival in space, can be enhanced to measure optical rotation and chirality of the samples by incorporating the proposed device, adding insight into the viability of microorganisms. The miniaturization and light weight of the proposed polarimeter, in combination with its high sensitivity, will make it well suited for monitoring extraterrestrial samples for chirality.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed technology has many potential spinoff applications. The device will be valuable to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, where the trend is to develop drug molecules that are chirally pure. Research institutions can use this device to study the efficacy of drugs in clinical applications. The device can also be very useful to educational institutions for research and training. Other applications for this polarimeter include bioprocessing and food monitoring, as well as chemical and fragrance quality testing. Most importantly, we expect the miniaturized lab-on-a-chip polarimeter to eventually become a valuable tool in clinical diagnostic settings.

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.

Biomolecular Sensors

Form Generated on 08-03-09 13:26