In this Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I effort, Leiden Measurement Technology (LMT) proposes to build the Sample Pre-processing Instrument for Chemical Exploration (SPICE), an automated sample pre-processing module capable of efficiently extracting chemicals of interest from solid samples and then delivering those analytes to analytical instruments of choice. The SPICE module will be designed to work in conjunction with a number of in situ analytical instruments depending on the specific needs of the customer. More specifically, the SPICE module will consist of an ultrasonic chamber that can be operated in two modes. A static mode for mixing and homogenizing the sample, and a dynamic mode that flows solvent through the ultrasonic chamber to avoid the re-adsorption of the analytes to the solid surface. This mode is useful for extracting the maximum amount of analyte from the solid sample with a reported increase of up to 70% over static methods. Where traditional extraction of soil/mineral samples involves the removal of organics from the surface, ultrasonic energy can be used to rupture small particles and break apart aggregates to expose inner surfaces that can trap analytes.
The instrument described above will lead to significant improvements in the extraction of soluble analytes from solid samples over current technologies such as mechanical mixing, high temperature extraction or extraction with organic solvents. UAE leads to less cross-contamination than mechanical mixing, is more more energy efficient than thermal methods and does not require large volumes of organic solvent. In addition, the modular nature of the SPICE instrument allows it to be compatible with several analytical techniques currently in use by NASA including capillary electrophoresis, microchip capillary electrophoresis, gas chromatography, HPLC, UV fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and mass spectroscopy.
The SPICE instrument is an autonomous and adaptable solid sample processing unit to be used in conjunction with other instruments for chemical analysis. It is of great benefit to NASA for processing solid samples from planets, moons, asteroids or other bodies since the return of chemical samples is challenging and prone to contamination. The ability to remove the maximum amount of chemical analytes from soil or mineral samples may reveal the presence of new chemical species important to understanding the chemical makeup of the universe.
The SPICE module will be designed to act as a remote, autonomous instrument which is ideal for processing samples under dangerous circumstances such as in the area of high radiation doses or severe chemical contamination. The module is useful in the analytic laboratory for the consistent processing of solid samples.