NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Astrobiology and Atmospheric Instruments for Planetary Exploration
PROPOSAL TITLE:Miniaturized MEMS-based Gas Chromatograph for High Inertial Loads Associated with Planetary Missions

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
5552 Cathedral Oaks Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93111-1406
(805) 692-4978

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Paul M. Holland
5552 Cathedral Oaks Road
Santa Barbara, CA  93111-1406
(805) 692-4978

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT ( Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Thorleaf Research, Inc. proposes to develop a rugged, miniaturized, low power MEMS-based gas chromatograph (GC) capable of handling the high inertial loads encountered during planetary missions. This will provide key enabling technology for mission planners, especially where hard landers or penetrators may be required to meet science objectives within challenging mass, volume and power constraints. Our innovative approach employs high strength inert materials to provide a direct interface between components such as a MEMS-GC injector chip, valves and GC column. This eliminates fittings and tubing connections to greatly enhance robustness, improve system inertness and reduce mass. We believe it will be possible to develop the miniaturized GC system at a mass of about 200 grams, with an average power consumption of less than 50 mW for isothermal operation. Our use of a modular design approach will make it possible to interface the proposed miniaturized GC to miniature mass spectrometers, ion mobility spectrometers, or other detectors of interest to NASA. The goal of our proposed SBIR Phase 1 effort is to demonstrate feasibility for a miniaturized, high inertial load MEMS-based gas chromatograph, and to develop a detailed design for fabricating and demonstrating prototype instrumentation in Phase 2.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Miniaturization and robustness of in situ instrumentation are key drivers in the overall payload mass required for NASA missions. In the tradeoffs associated with mission design, instrumentation that can survive higher inertial loads allows propellant mass to be reduced. This can be used to increase the science payload or reduce launch vehicle requirements. Thorleaf Research's proposed GC system addresses this need in an innovative way, providing enabling technology for "hard" entry into the atmospheres of Venus or the giant planets, and hard landers or penetrators at the surface of Mars, Europa or other bodies. Our miniature GC will be especially useful when coupled to miniature mass spectrometers or ion mobility spectrometers currently under development at NASA/JPL and NASA/ARC. With our modular design approach, this system can be adapted for NASA Space Exploration Initiative needs, such as environmental monitoring in space habitats and process monitoring for the extraction of planetary resources.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS ( Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Analysis of commercial instrumentation markets shows that two of the three major growth areas for analytical instrumentation are real-time analysis and environmental monitoring, with projected annual growth rates of more than 15%. Our modular design approach for the miniaturized, low power gas chromatograph designed to resist high inertial loads will help it be adapted for field measurement needs in scientific, energy exploration and environmental monitoring applications where ruggedness and reliability are especially important. Thus, technical developments in the proposed program could have a significant market impact.

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.

Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

Form Printed on 09-08-06 18:19