In this Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II effort, LMT proposes to build from the successful Phase I to design and build the IN-situ Solid Phase Extraction of Chemical Targets (INSPECT) instrument, a versatile and automated sample processing module that will work in conjunction with a number of analytical instruments. INSPECT incorporates two extraction columns integrated into a microfluidic platform for the separation of a broad range of Class I (non-polar organics), Class II (polar organics) chemicals, thus reducing interference and lowering detection limits by providing more refined (or pre-separated) and concentrated samples to on-board analytical instruments. As stated in a recent paper, ``…with any analytical system, the accuracy of sample analysis is only as good as the sample that is delivered to the analytical instrument." This is especially holds true for samples in complex chemical environments that either contain high levels of molecules that interfere with the analytical instrument or contain chemicals that can react with target analytes. To mitigate these problems LMT proposes to carry out separations with small extraction columns that borrow technology from solid phase extraction, reversed phase chromatography and traditional column chromatography technology. Our system not only will increase the resolution and sensitivity for life-detection techniques but will use low power, low volume and low mass, which are inherent traits of a microfluidic system. The method outlined above is an improvement over other extraction-type systems that require large volumes of volatile organic solvents for sample concentration, separation and delivery. Moreover, the modular nature of INSPECT will allow it to be compatible with several analytical instruments currently being used and developed at NASA including CE, MCE, GC, Gc-MS, HPLC, IC, LDMS,UV spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy.
The INSPECT technology provides innovative sample processing technologies for the purpose of improving the resolution and sensitivity of life-detection measurements. Specifically, we have targeted environmental samples from Ocean World bodies with water, but this module may also be adapted to process soil samples for environments such as Mars with the incorporation of a preliminary extraction step. The INSPECT technology provides innovative collection and concentration of samples for delivery to a variety of analytical instruments.
The INSPECT technology can also be adapted to monitoring specific chemical concentrations on Earth. This will be important for environmental monitoring near crude oil deposits to detect small leaks before they become large ones. Moreover this technology could be modified to monitor the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, as they have been show to migrate through sediment to groundwater.