Lab on a Chip LCVR Polarimeter for Exploration of Life Signatures

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX09CC23P
Agency Tracking Number: 085036
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solicitation Year: 2008
Solicitation Topic Code: S1.09
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
2520 W. 237th Street, Torrance, CA, 90505-5217
DUNS: 033449757
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Srivatsa Venkatasubbarao
 Principal Investigator
 (424) 263-6344
Business Contact
 Lothar Kempen
Title: Vice President, R&D
Phone: (424) 263-6362
Research Institution
Life on Earth is unique in many ways; one of its great mysteries is that all the biomolecules of Earth's life are chiral and one optical isomer of each amino acid or nucleic acid "building block" was selected by evolution. In our pursuit of finding life on Mars and beyond, it is likely that one of the clues to extant or extinct life could be the detection of non-racemic chiral molecules. This proposal describes the development of a highly miniaturized and ultrasensitive lab-on-a-chip polarimeter to measure the optical rotation of biomolecules such as amino acids, sugars, DNA, RNA in samples extracted from other planets or moons. The proposed polarimeter will be based on liquid crystal variable retarder (LCVR) technology. This technology offers a highly sensitive optical rotation measurement, from extremely small sample volumes, in a highly miniaturized format. This work is a joint collaboration between Intelligent Optical Systems, Professor Axel Scherer of the California Institute of Technology, and Meadowlark Optics. In Phase I, we propose to fabricate an LCVR polarimeter and demonstrate its ability to measure small angles of optical rotation. High sensitivity, low-power consumption, no moving parts, and potential for integration into future exploration missions are the attractive attributes of the proposed technology. In Phase II, we will optimize the performance, develop prototypes, and conduct extensive testing.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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