LMT has been selected for 2019 NASA SBIR Phase II contract to continue developing a small automated microfluidics instrument that can separate different classes of (organic) molecules in water samples. The device is designed to help explore extraterrestrial ocean worlds like Europa and Enceladus. This project is the next phase of LMT's IN-situ Solid Phase Extraction of Chemical Targets (INSPECT) instrument.
In this Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II effort, LMT will continue to work on the INSPECT device to 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. 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 INSPECT compatible with analytical techniques currently being developed at NASA including electrophoresis, gas chromatography, HPLC, UV fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy.