NASA SBIR 2012 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 12-1 E1.03-9368
SUBTOPIC TITLE: International Space Station Utilization
PROPOSAL TITLE: Miniaturized Variable-Pressure Scanning Electron Microscope

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)
Paul Sorensen
P.O. Box 71
Hanover, NH 03755 - 3116
(603) 640-2340

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James J. Barry
P.O. Box 71
Hanover, NH 03755 - 3116
(603) 640-2487

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
International Space Station Utilization is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
NASA has recognized the need to develop new on-orbit analysis capabilities. This need arises because of the high cost associated with returning samples to Earth for analysis, the limited availability of crew time, and the relatively modest capabilities and interfaces of the existing hardware on the International Space Station (ISS). The goal of this project is the development of a miniature variable-pressure scanning electron microscope (MVP-SEM) that can be rapidly developed, space qualified, and deployed on the ISS. The MVP-SEM is a cross-cutting tool for in situ topographical imaging and compositional X ray fluorescence mapping of uncoated conductive and non-conductive samples useful to multiple disciplines, including nondestructive imaging of inorganic and organic materials, surface contamination analyses, and scientific studies. We can achieve our goal by leveraging previous NASA investments in the development of an electron gun control system, an electron focusing column design, and scanning and imaging system technology at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center; a novel cathode from Applied Physics Technologies Incorporated (APTech); and space-qualified vacuum system technology and electronics from Creare. With the head start provided by these previous investments, the MVP-SEM technology will provide flight qualified hardware that is similar to commonly used tools in biological and material science laboratories and could allow for an increased capacity of on-orbit analysis.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
An MVP-SEM will provide the ISS with an additional on-orbit analytical tool which will allow for increased capacity of on-orbit analysis, thereby reducing the number of samples that must be returned to Earth. The variable-pressure SEM is a cross-cutting tool for in situ topographical imaging and compositional X ray fluorescence mapping of uncoated conductive and non-conductive samples useful to multiple disciplines, including nondestructive imaging of materials (inorganic and organic), surface contamination studies, and scientific analyses. This tool would also provide the ISS with a new capability for maintaining and understanding ISS structures (e.g., space weathering) and for scientific studies, thus reducing the required number of sample returns to the Earth.
For Mars exploration, a variable-pressure SEM will allow for the simultaneous study of organisms and the geological substrates they might live on, provide shape and size-scale information, detail how they interact with their environment, and impart context for other studies that provide detailed chemical information.
Morphological and chemical characterization of lunar regolith in laboratories on Earth has been routinely accomplished using a SEM and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS). Our SEM would allow similar analysis in situ. A miniature variable pressure SEM would support both Medium (New Frontiers) and Large (Max-C) type missions, as outlined in the Planetary Science Decadal Survey 2013-2022.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Scanning electron microscopes are one of the most indispensable laboratory tools for making analytical measurements. The market for electron microscopes is expected to exceed $4 billion by 2017, and the clear trend in the market is a shift to smaller, lighter, and more portable units. Our miniature variable pressure scanning electron microscope will be uniquely positioned to benefit from growth in this segment of the market due to its small size, low power, small mass, and excellent measurement capabilities. The fact that our system will facilitate measurements in support of biology and biotechnology, Earth science, physical science, human research, technology development, and will also facilitate assessment of the health of materials and structures, suggests that potential commercial applications for the technology are wide and deep.

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)

Form Generated on 03-28-13 15:21