This project will develop a compact, robust low-power monitor for ethylene and other gases to enable space-based greenhouses.
Human missions in space will require advanced systems to maintain an environment supporting human life, and smart greenhouses are necessary for fresh food supply in long term space missions. Plants can produce ethylene through natural metabolic processes, and this ethylene can accumulate in closed environments having undesirable effects on the plants, including reduced growth, impaired pollen development and/or fertilization, leaf epinasty, flower abortion, accelerated fruit ripening, and more. Therefore, ethylene must be monitored and controlled.
Traditional analytical methods used to monitor ethylene are time-consuming, technically demanding, and expensive. Real time field monitoring, typically using conventional gas chromatography has a lot of fundamental barriers and limitations due to its bulky size, heavy weight, special carrier gases requirements and high maintenance.
Adelphi Technology LLC in collaboration with Western Kentucky University has developed a compact, portable, and robust battery-powered analytical instrument for monitoring of ultra-low concentrations of ethylene in complex backgrounds. The instrument is based on principles of analytical gas chromatography (GC) and has high tolerance to impact, temperature, humidity, and contamination. The key advantages of our technology are the utilization of scrubbed ambient air as a carrier gas and of a novel multisensory highly integrated platform as a GC detector.
In Phase I a handheld laboratory unit capable of 15 ppb detection of ethylene was built and demonstrated. In Phase II, we will build an industrial prototype and validate it in greenhouses. Automated self calibration, a distributed greenhouse monitoring system, and expanded range of chemicals will be added, along with increased integration to make a user friendly device for commercial use that could be qualified for space.
The compact, robust and low-power gas analyzer developed will be enabling for plant growth in space due to its high sensitivity to ethylene and other gases, and it can perform general air quality analysis. The sensitivity and recognition power can exceed conventional gas chromatography for many compounds thanks to novel highly-integrated detectors. The technology is suitable for application in NASAˇs New Frontiers and Discovery missions as well as for in-situ detection of evidence of life in the Ocean Worlds.
The niches we are targeting require an accurate analysis of VOCs in complex backgrounds that cannot be measured with simple sensors and leak detectors. Adelphi will target the ethylene/VOC analyzer at the markets for indoor air quality monitoring and geochemical exploration. Other applications include agriculture and plant biology, water & wastewater, food, metals & mining, and pharmaceuticals.