NASA SBIR 2011 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 11-1 S1.09-8495
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Lunar and Planetary Science
PROPOSAL TITLE: Methane Origin Instrument (MOI): Methane Isotope and Hydrocarbon Analyzer for Mars Exploration

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Los Gatos Research
67 East Evelyn Avenue, Suite 3
Mountain View, CA 94041 - 1518
(650) 965-7772

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Douglas Baer
67 East Evelyn Avenue, Suite 3
Mountain View, CA 94041 - 1518
(650) 965-7772 Extension :229

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
In this Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) effort, Los Gatos Research (LGR) proposes to employ mid-infrared Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (Off-Axis ICOS) to develop a compact, rugged analyzer to quantify low concentrations of 12CH4 (methane), 13CH4 (delta_13C of methane), C2H6 (ethane), C3H8 (propane), and C4H10 (butane) in the gas phase. This portable instrument will provide rapid (0.1 – 1 Hz), highly-accurate quantification of these gasses with minimal external calibration or consumables. The target accuracies for the measured species are [CH4] to better than plus or minus 0.05 – 0.1 ppbv, delta_13C of ambient CH4 to better than plus or minus 0.5 – 1 and 00 over 100, [C2H6] to better than plus or minus 0.05 – 1 ppbv, [C3H8] to better than plus or minus 0.1 – 1 ppbv, and [C4H10] to better than plus or minus 0.1 – 5 ppbv. The resulting instrument will allow researchers in NASA's Space Science and Astrobiology Division to perform field measurements of methane and other hydrocarbons in order to better discriminate between biotic and abiotic methane production. These studies are widely applicable to the exploration of Mars, and the technology can be miniaturized to address this critical NASA need. These in-situ terrestrial measurements also provide valuable high-resolution data for the calibration of remote sensing instruments.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The 2013-2022 NASA Planetary Science Decadal survey cites the need to understand the "…inventory and dynamics of carbon compounds and trace gasses in the atmosphere and surface [of Mars], and [the] processes that govern their origin, evolution, and fate…" as one of five "…key, overarching questions that drive future Mars exploration." (Decadal Survey, 6-4). A robust instrument that is extremely sensitive to the expected Martian atmospheric levels of 12CH4, 13CH4, C2H6, C3H8, and C4H10 is optimally suited for answering these questions on the future missions to Mars, such as that planned for 2018. The proposed instrument complements the methane/methane-isotope analyzer that will be part of the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory mission, by adding the capability to measure the abundances of light hydrocarbons. Given the lack of empirical data about Martian methane sources that is required to calibrate an isotope-only measurement, this additional capability is critical in determining the origin of methane on Mars.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Besides its applications to NASA, a field-portable analyzer capable of measuring light hydrocarbon concentrations and methane isotope ratios also has significant commercial applications for energy exploration and landfill management. The proposed SBIR effort will substantially facilitate in the development of these commercial products.

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)
Biological Signature (i.e., Signs Of Life)
Chemical/Environmental (see also Biological Health/Life Support)

Form Generated on 11-22-11 13:43