NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 S1.09-8929
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Planetary Science
PROPOSAL TITLE: Laser Ablation - Optical Cavity Isotopic Spectrometer (LAOCIS)

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Applied Spectra, Inc.
46661 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538 - 6410
(510) 657-7679

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Alexander A. Bolshakov
46661 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538 - 6410
(510) 657-7679

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 3 to 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This proposal addresses NASA astrobiology objectives, particularly the need for a compact instrument capable of in situ isotopic measurements. We propose the detailed conceptual development of a device for analyzing key isotopic composition in surface materials without sample preparation. We will combine absorption spectroscopy with laser induced vaporization of solid samples for high-resolution isotopic measurements. An immediate focus is on Mars but our concept is also highly germane to other applications relevant to bio- and geochemical objectives. We will evaluate accuracy, sensitivity, and resolution of our technology for isotopic detection of the key elements associated with signs of life (C, S, H, O) in solid materials. All essential design components of the proposed analyzer have been separately developed and demonstrated in very compact form for other applications. In the Phase I, we will develop technology for measuring sulfur isotope ratios in condensed samples. In the Phase II, we will demonstrate the overall performance of the proposed technique and deliver a breadboard prototype instrument. Commercial systems based on the Phase II prototype will be developed and marketed during Phase III.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The Laser Ablation Optical Cavity Isotopic Spectrometer (LAOCIS) establishes a new class of instruments for planetary surface exploration. This novel high-resolution sensitive analytical system will provide measurements of selected key isotopes associated with signs of life and can be further extended to many other chemical species and tasks. In future, LAOCIS can be applied to age dating of materials by measuring the isotopic ratios of Rb-Sr and/or U-Pb radiometric pairs. In situ geochronology was specified as "overarching" priority in the recent NRC survey. It will provide a rich field of LAOCIS applications. Because this technology combines physical principles of laser induced breakdown plasma and tunable laser absorption, the future integrated instrument will measure elemental composition (~30 elements simultaneously) and key isotopic abundances in condensed samples. This proposal is particularly focused on Mars but highly relevant to applications on the Moon, other planets, their moons (e.g., Titan, Europa, Io, etc.) and comets. In addition, the measurement system can be utilized for rapid, mobile isotopic measurements on Earth to study biogeochemistry, element cycle studies, human health and ecosystems. The most probable application is the analysis of bulk light element isotope systems, which are relatively abundant allowing minor isotopes to be seen with high signal/noise ratios.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Potential commercial applications for the LAOCIS will be varied throughout forensic and homeland security applications; government nuclear maintenance and non-proliferation activities; hydrological, petrochemical and geological exploration and relevant field applications; measurement of isotopic tracers/markers for medical practice and drinking water control, and in academic institutions (particularly environmental, medical, nutrient and biogeochemical research). A modification of LAOCIS may be used to increase sensitivity in halogen detection, an important requirement of analytical instruments for semiconductor package materials and RoHS substances. Due to worldwide concerns with terrorism, force protection, nuclear forensics and homeland security, we anticipate that a significant number of the government and private agencies will require compact analytical isotopic instrumentation for real-time field measurements and characterization. Our intention is to deliver our revolutionary technology to the broadest range of users.

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.


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