NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 S1.09-9408
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Planetary Science

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
DLA Instruments
6060 Guadalupe mines ct
San Jose, CA 95120 - 4816
(408) 230-7164

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
David Adler
6060 Guadalupe mines ct
San Jose, CA 95120 - 4816
(408) 230-7164

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The JPL web page devoted to looking for life on Mars has two images. The first is an image of a hydrothermal pool at Yellowstone: the kind of place life might begin. The second is a scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of the Allen Hills 84001 meteorite. This SEM picture is famous for capturing our imaginations when, in 1996, it was thought to show the first pictures of extraterrestrial life. Whether these SEM images represent Martian life forms or something else, they stirred intense scientific research and vigorous debate within the astrobiology community, and increased public interest in the search for life on Mars. When extraterrestrial life is conclusively discovered, it will most likely be shown to the world using an image from an electron microscope.

Why have no electron microscopes flown on planetary missions? Because existing SEM's are too large, heavy and fragile to withstand spaceflight. The key to reducing the size and weight of a SEM lies in eliminating the high-vacuum pumping system. In the SEM, every time a new sample is introduced the system must be re-evacuated. The entire pumping system must travel with the SEM. This pumping system is heavy, fragile and consumes a lot of power. It is because of the pumping system that no portable SEM exists, much less one that could travel to Mars.

In this proposal, we will eliminate the need for a high-vacuum system in a SEM. This is accomplished by developing a new electron source that can operate in relatively poor vacuum conditions. By eliminating the largest, most complex and heavy part of the SEM, this project will develop a truly portable SEM: the Backpack SEM.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
NASA researchers collect samples in remote areas such as Antarctica or Mars. On nearly every mission, taking pictures is a primary goal. After optical cameras, SEMs are the most-used scientific imaging tool. NASA researchers use SEMs to image virtually any solid sample they collect. This project will make it possible to bring a SEM to remote field locations where NASA scientists collect data. As such, every field research team at NASA that uses a laboratory SEM is a potential customer for this technology. These teams include, but are not limited to, planetary geologists studying Martian dust and Titan's organic "dunes", astrobiologists analyzing extremophiles from hydrothermal vents, and paleoclimatologists tracking climate change in pollen and volcanic ash.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The Backpack SEM will be of enormous value to field scientists, engineers and experts who rely on electron microscopes to conduct their studies. Often, field researchers must "guess and check" on which samples to collect. It may take days or weeks to determine if the samples were chosen correctly. Even the correct samples can be subject to the vagaries of field research: samples can be damaged, can degrade with time, and they can be lost or mislabeled. Taking a SEM image of the samples in the field, when changes can be made or mistakes corrected, can save weeks or months of time for a project.

Virtually any field researcher who uses a SEM could benefit from having one in the field during sample collection. This is especially true for researchers who travel to remote locations. Therefore, the most likely first-adopters of the Backpack SEM are geologists, biologists, earth scientists and archeologists. Engineers or forensic experts who examine infrastructure (bridges, buildings, etc.) may also want to have a SEM in the field with them during data collection.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Analytical Instruments (Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma, Energy; see also Sensors)
Analytical Methods
Biological (see also Biological Health/Life Support)
Biological Signature (i.e., Signs Of Life)
Chemical/Environmental (see also Biological Health/Life Support)

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12