Solid-state nanopores have been identified as ideal candidates for robust and ultrafast single molecule detection and present a highly suitable candidate platform technology for this NASA SBIR Phase II solicitation under Focus Area 9: Sensors, Detectors and Instruments and subtopic S1.11 In Situ Instruments/Technologies and Sample Processing for Ocean Worlds Life Detection focused on concepts for “Ocean Worlds Life Detection Technology”.
We propose to develop a flight ready SiN nanopore-based sensor for detecting life in ocean worlds. Detecting life in ocean worlds was previously attempted by NASA funded research with biological nanopore sensors, however these sensors are fragile and will not survive flight conditions. Before nanopore technology is ready for integration into an actual NASA mission and sensing of new forms of molecules, several key technical questions have yet to be addressed, and an optimized nanopore sensor has to be built and fully tested against those requirements. Here, we propose to develop such a nanopore sensing device based on solid-state materials.
The main deliverable of the Phase II proposal is a solid-state nanopore sensor that best satisfies NASA mission requirements. Sensor’s specifications will be outlined and developed to satisfy the stringent NASA mission requirements, in consultation with NASA scientists. The sensor will be comprised of:
This project directly aligns with the SeqLOW COLDTech goals for the Development of Nanopore Sequencing for Automated Ocean World Life Detection led by Program Officer Christopher McKay at NASA Ames Research.
The technology also has potential insertions as an agnostic life detection instrument and small molecule sensor within the scientific payload for both Europa Lander and Enceladus Orbiter mission concepts and for possible follow on submersible missions. The technology would also be well suited for searching for extant life on Mars.
The proposed nanopore sensor architecture, with its miniaturized and robust design, has potential in a wide variety of terrestrial applications ranging from DNA sequencing, point-of-care diagnostics, human pathogen surveillance to agricultural. Additionally, the small molecule analysis capability can be applied to the EPA and USDA needs for measuring water quality.