This proposal aims to support NASA needs expressed in 2020 NASA Technology Taxonomy, TX06 Human Health, Life Support, and Habitation Systems, to develop “Next-Generation Water Monitoring Systems with Nanotechnology”. The proposed STTR project aims to develop a nanoparticle based microfluidic colorimetric sensor for the detection and quantification of metal ions. The desired sensitivity, selectivity and stability of the device will be achieved through the combination of chemical selective and sensitive functionalized metal nanoparticles, paired with a novel in-situ formation of the functionalized nanoparticles onto microfluidic paper-based pads, as well as a simple and compact RGB colorimetric reader. Overall, the proposed technology will be a reliable, robust and compact microfluidic based colorimetric sensor that requires extremely small sample volumes, no sample prep, has fast measurement times (less than 5 min), is easy-to-use, and most importantly has the capability to measure metal ions currently of intertest to NASA (Ag, Zn, Mn, Pb, Hg, Ni). In addition, the proposed technology would be gravity agnostic due to the use of microfluidic channels.
The proposed microfluidic colorimetric sensor will provide an on-demand, easy-to-use measurement of metal ions for NASA’s water systems. The proposed technology would be applicable for both crewed missions beyond low-earth orbit as well as future habitation mission on both the moon and other celestial bodies (ex. Mars). The proposed technology is also relevant to the International Space Station, where it could be used in the short term, to support on-going research and testing in order to develop systems for monitoring water quality.
Non-NASA commercial applications of the proposed microfluidic colorimetric detection of metal ions includes the use in municipal water treatment plants and the residential and commercial market segments. This technology may also find applications in pharmaceutical, medical and electronic industries for quality monitoring of the metal-ion free water.