In this Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I effort, Leiden Measurement Technology (LMT) proposes to design the IN-situ Solid Phase Extraction of Chemical Targets (INSPECT) instrument, a versatile and automated sample processing module that can couple to several analytical instruments via a microfluidic platform. The proposed device INSPECT can separate a range of biologically relevant molecules such as cells, large proteins, polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons and amino acids important for life detection. This technology will reduce interferents and concentrate samples thus lowering detection limits by providing more refined (or pre-separated) samples to on-board analytical instruments. Separation and concentration is achieved with micro-chromatography columns that borrow technology from solid phase extraction (SPE), solid phase micro-extraction (SPME), cell adhesion technology and traditional chromatography. The INSPECT system not only increases the resolution and sensitivity for life-detection but also uses low power, volume and mass, all of which are principal factors noted in subtopic S1.07 In Situ Instruments/Technologies for Planetary Science. This method is an improvement over other extraction systems that require volatile organic solvents or high volumes of solvent for sample processing. Moreover, it is our goal to make this moduleINSPECT will be compatible with analytical techniques currently being developed at NASA including electrophoresis, gas chromatography, HPLC, UV fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy.
The INPECT technology provides innovative sample processing for the purpose of improving the resolution and sensitivity of life-detection measurements. Specifically, we have targeted environmental samples from Ocean World bodies with water and ice (i.e., Europa, Enceladus and Titan), but this module may be adapted for other environments where there is a need to detect trace amounts of organics and biomolecules as NASA continues to search for extant and extinct life throughout the solar system.
The INSPECT technology, once completed, can be adapted for selective monitoring of terrestrial chemical levels. This will be important for environmental monitoring of groundwater near crude oil deposits and pipelines, or used to monitor the spread of pollutants associated with hydraulic fracturing. The INSPECT device could also be adapted to monitor pharmaceuticals in waste or drinking water which are becoming more abundant in densely populated areas.