NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 S4.05-9960
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Astrobiology
PROPOSAL TITLE: Miniature Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer for Space and Extraterrestrial Applications

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Opti-MS Corporation
102 White Drive
Starkville, MS 39759-2635

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
David Ermer
102 White Drive
Starkville, MS 39759-2635

Using a revolutionary ion-focusing scheme developed at Mississippi State University (provisional patent filed) we will be able to design and build a compact laser based time-of-flight mass spectrometer that is capable of detecting a wide range of masses. Mass resolution of above 104 can be achieved from 300 to c.a. 70,000 Daltons and above 3000 from 20 to 1.5'105 Daltons, making it possible to analyze the majority of molecules of biological interest at high resolution and high sensitivity. Our current estimates for the proposed design results in a volume of less than 0.75 liters, a mass of less than 2 kilograms and requires less than 5 watts of power. This includes the pulse forming electronics for ion extraction. We expect that both the mass and power requirements will actually be lower in the completed device. The device will allow the detection of biologically important molecules in an extraterrestrial or space application. The usable mass range will be from 1 to 1.5'105 Daltons; the design requires minimal tuning over this mass range. This will allow for the detection of most biologically important molecules.

NASA has identified a need for a miniature, high-resolution, high-sensitivity technique to identify biologically important molecules for astrobiology applications. Laser-based TOF-MS is a powerful technique for the detection and identification of a wide range of atoms and molecules. For biological molecules, MALDI TOF-MS can detect DNA/RNA fragments, whole proteins and peptides and digested protein fragments. For these biological applications it is necessary for the TOF-MS to be able to analyze a range of masses from 300 ? 150K Daltons. In addition to biological applications, laser-based TOF-MS can analyze a variety of analytes from numerous matrices including isotopic and elemental analysis.

The market for MALDI TOF-MS equipment for proteomics research has been estimated to be $258M in 2004. Our MS technology can also be adapted to trap-based time-of-flight mass spectrometers with either an electro-spray or MALDI ion source. The total market for trap-based TOF-MS instruments was estimated to be $189M in 2004. The miniature, high-performance and relatively low-cost TOF-MS described in this proposal has tremendous commercial opportunities. The main applications for miniature TOF-MS is for the screening of infectious disease and biological agents. We also believe that the superior performance of our design will allow penetration into the general TOF-MS market.