Extraterrestrial Organic Analyzers: Microfluidic Approaches to Astrobiology’s Questions - Amanda Stockton
From Katie Gentilello on February 28th, 2017
Microfluidics offers multiple unique and powerful tools with which to address astrobiology’s big questions, including “Is there life beyond Earth?” One key microfluidic technology in the search for life beyond Earth is the Extraterrestrial Organic Analyzer (EOA) microcapillary electrophoresis (CE) laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) detection system. EOA, because it uses a programmable microfluidic architecture (PMA) in tandem with µCE-LIF, enables rapid, automated, and extremely sensitive analyses of organic biomarkers (down to 70 pM or sub pptr) including amines, amino acids, dipeptides, aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The PMA, based on normally-closed or lifting-gate monolithic membrane microvalves, enables automated sample processing with complex fluidic manipulation including mixing, dilution, labeling, and transfer for analysis of multiple compound classes within minutes. EOA technology has been proposed for Mars rover missions and Enceladus fly-by missions. Recent work in our group has looked at hardening the technology for a 50,000g 5 km/s impact mission for Europa. This requires the entire optical subsystem be assembled with sub-micron precision and permanently welded as a single monolithic stack. It also requires that we transition from pneumatically-actuated microvales to hydraulic valves with incompressible fluids. This talk will present an overview of EOA, with detailed descriptions of the microfluidics that makes this technology possible.