Future missions will benefit from a device that can quickly and accurately assess the microbial status of habitat surfaces. Current state of the art technology relies on sampling surfaces and performing molecular processes on the samples to determine the microbial burden. Nanohmics proposes to create a handheld, consumable-free device that provides microbial mapping using a fluorescence spectroscopy imager. Additionally, the ultraviolet light source used for fluorescence excitation can also be used for disinfection, which can reduce the need for microbial monitoring. The core technology is based on a visible-spectrum imaging spectrometer developed under NASA SBIR funding, relying on a ~1 gram micro-optical chip to provide complete spatial-spectral registration with real-time data capture. This lightweight, low-power device can easily be integrated into new or existing platforms to enable autonomous microbial monitoring that eliminates the need for manual sample collection, preparation, and processing. In the Phase I program, with feedback from the technical monitor, we will select relevant microorganisms and collect fluorescence spectroscopy of the target microorganisms on relevant surfaces. This data will be used to develop classification methods and inform the design of a prototype microbial mapping device.
A compact fluorescence spectroscopy imager is an ideal nondestructive examination (NDE) tool that provides real time measurements of bioburdens. For inspections, the device could improve the detection threshold, identify and quantify the contamination, and create a map of contamination hot spots. The device is also well suited to in situ applications. It could be an enabling element in a system that can verify the required level of cleanliness of a sample-handling facility for Martian samples.
A compact fluorescence spectroscopy imager has multiple applications in medical, defense, and industrial markets. This device could be used in hospitals to map pathogens on surfaces and validate the efficacy of disinfection systems to reduce hospital-acquired infections. This device could also be used for bio-agent sensing for defense applications.