Missions, Hardware, Software, & Sensors: January 2009

NASA Ames has developed a nanosensor technology for high sensitive and low power chemical sensing using nanostructure, single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT's), combined with silicon-based micro fabrication and micromachining process. Due to large surface area, low surface energy barrier and high thermal and mechanical stability, nanostructured chemical sensors offer higher sensitivity, lower power consumption and a more robust solution than most state-of-the art systems making them attractive for space and defense applications, as well as a variety of commercial applications. Leveraging the micromachining technology, the light weight and compact sensors can be fabricated, in wafer scale for mass production, with high yield and at low cost. Such sensors have drawn attention from the space community for global weather monitoring, space exploration, life search in the universe, and launch pad fuel leak detection and in-flight cabin monitoring and engine operation monitoring.

We are developing the remote sensing techniques based on combined Raman spectrometer and UV fluorescence instrument suite for biogenic organics detections and characterizations. Our key step is to target the optimal instrument performance based on the systematic laboratory investigation and field- testing. Our measurement goals are: (1) ppm to ppb detection limits for organic molecules from natural samples without exaction or any preparation, (2) characterization of types of organic compounds based on complementary Raman and fluorescent signatures at sufficient detail to indicate possible biological origin. We will also incorporate the ultra sensitive spectroscopy technique for trace detection using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy. The effort includes laboratory instrument technique and field instrument design with fiber optical probes. Deadline: 5:00 PM EST February 1, 2009.