Leiden Measurement Technology (LMT) proposes to build the Automated Recovery and Isolation of Extraterrestrial Lipids (ARIEL) instrument. This instrument will be created to autonomously isolate and concentrate amino acids and fatty acids from samples delivered to the instrument. These chemical species have long been chemical targets of NASA missions and may be indicative of life. More specifically, ARIEL is a sample processing instrument that will extract ions, amino acids, fatty acids and non -polar organic molecules from either solid, liquid, or mixed samples. The ARIEL sample chamber will be equipped with an ultrasonic horn which not only increases the extraction efficiency of the target analytes, but also lyses any cellular material, thus making it available for further characterization. ARIEL will autonomously carry out a pair of sequential extractions, the first of which removes ions, amino acids and small fatty acids. The second extraction dissolves medium and long chain fatty acids as well as any non-polar organic compounds present in the sample. ARIEL’s fluidic system will send the first extraction solution to a processing channel equipped with a solid phase extraction (SPE) column that will specifically isolate amino acids and short chain fatty acids. Any other ions in solution will pass through the column. The second extraction solution will be sent to a separate channel containing an SPE column designed to remove medium and long chain fatty acids while other non-polar organic species pass through the second column. Once the target analytes are isolated on two separate SPE columns they can be washed, eluted with a minimum volume of solvents, and delivered to ARIEL’s two separate outputs. These outputs can be designed to interface with derivatization systems and analytical instrumentation used by NASA such as GCMS, LCMS or LDMS.
NASA is interested in detecting low concentrations of amino acids and fatty acids since they are indicative of life under the appropriate conditions. AREIL uses UAE to efficiently remove amino acids and all fatty acids (including short chain species) from either solid or liquid samples. The de-salted, concentrated analytes are concentrated on solid phase extraction materials at low temperatures and autonomously delivered to on board analytical instruments for characterization.
Non-NASA uses of ARIEL include the processing of difficult to handle samples such as soils, minerals or food stuffs which can be either wet or dry solids. ARIEL can also process mixed (solid and liquid) samples such as dairy samples. The isolation and concentration of the target analytes allows for easier detection of species that may be present at very low concentrations.