NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 S1.09-8964
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In Situ Sensors and Sensor Systems for Planetary Science
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lab on a Chip LCVR Polarimeter for Exploration of Life Signatures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc.
2520 W. 237th Street
Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6300

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Srivatsa Venkatasubbarao
2520 W. 237th Street
Torrance, CA 90505 - 5217
(424) 263-6344

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

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Life on Earth is unique in many ways; one of its great mysteries is that all the biomolecules of Earth's life are chiral and one optical isomer of each amino acid or nucleic acid "building block" was selected by evolution. In our pursuit of finding life on Mars and beyond, it is likely that one of the clues to extant or extinct life could be the detection of non-racemic chiral molecules. This proposal describes the development of a highly miniaturized and ultrasensitive lab-on-a-chip polarimeter to measure the optical rotation of biomolecules such as amino acids, sugars, DNA, RNA in samples extracted from other planets or moons. The proposed polarimeter will be based on liquid crystal variable retarder (LCVR) technology. This technology offers a highly sensitive optical rotation measurement, from extremely small sample volumes, in a highly miniaturized format. This work is a joint collaboration between Intelligent Optical Systems, Professor Axel Scherer of the California Institute of Technology, and Meadowlark Optics. In Phase I, we propose to fabricate an LCVR polarimeter and demonstrate its ability to measure small angles of optical rotation. High sensitivity, low-power consumption, no moving parts, and potential for integration into future exploration missions are the attractive attributes of the proposed technology. In Phase II, we will optimize the performance, develop prototypes, and conduct extensive testing.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed device will assist NASA in its search for extinct/extant life in the exploration of our solar system. The detection of chirality in Martian and other samples could provide insights into the existence of previous or current life. The miniaturized size and light weight of the proposed polarimeter, in combination with its high sensitivity, will make it well suited for monitoring extraterrestrial samples for chirality.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed technology has many potential spinoff applications. The device will be valuable to the pharmaceutical industry, where the trend is to develop drug molecules that are chirally pure. Research institutions can use this device in studying the efficacy of drugs in clinical applications. The device can also be very useful to educational institutions for research and training. Other applications for this polarimeter include bioprocessing and food monitoring, and chemical and fragrance quality testing.

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.

Biomolecular Sensors
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

Form Generated on 11-24-08 11:56