This proposal addresses the need for higher performance point detection instruments to measure airborne biological and organic particles within manned spacecraft, spacecraft assembly rooms, and other clean-air environments, driven by planetary protection and other demands. The focus of this effort is to develop a miniature bioaerosol particle (HS-BAP) sensor that detects and classifies biological and other particles with an unprecedented level of sensitivity and specificity in near real time, without reagents or consumables. This effort expands on a long history of particle detector development since the middle 19th century with significant acceleration since about 1990 with further accelerated after the 9/ll attack and subsequent biological attacks in the U.S. Aerosol sensors include elastic scattering-based sensors, common to most present-day clean room sensors, and include other modes of detection including fluorescence, holography, Raman scattering, mass spectroscopy, laser induced breakdown spectroscopy and other methods. In terms of sensitivity, elastic scattering has the highest cross-sections and produce the largest signals compared to other forms of optical sensors and are the simplest, least expensive, and most compact sensors. However, elastic scattering sensors measure particle density and particle size, but provide no chemical information about the particles themselves. Fluorescence-based sensors have the next highest cross-sections although still orders of magnitude lower than elastic scattering. These sensors are hindered by a technology gap: the lack of availability of lasers or LEDs with both preferred emission wavelength (<250 nm) and particle irradiance (>50 mJ/cm2). These are key features that are necessary to enable both detection and accurate classification of biological particles with an instrument in an easily deployable Size, Weight, Power consumption, and Cost (SWAP-C). This proposal addresses this technology gap.
Contamination control starts with air quality since contamination of surfaces cannot be controlled without control of contamination within the surrounding air. Major applications of the proposed technology for NASA include measurement and identification of particulate contaminant within spacecraft assembly and other NASA cleanrooms for return samples as well as continuous air quality measurement aboard long duration manned spacecraft missions.
Non-NASA applications include continuous sampling of air at major population hubs by governmental or private entities to measure and control hazardous biological, bioagent, or other particulates. Other commercial applications include all other clean room or clean air quality applications such as sensitive production in pharmaceutical, chemical, pharmaceutical, and other related industries.