Direct In-Situ Capture, Separation and Visualization of Biological Particles with Fluid-Screen in the Context of Venus Life Finder Mission Concept Study

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
November 10, 2022
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Direct In-Situ Capture, Separation and Visualization of Biological Particles with Fluid-Screen in the Context of Venus Life Finder Mission Concept Study
The schematic of the Fluid-Screen (FS) microbial capture and separation system. (a) The overall schematic of the FS System operation. The influent sample enters the chip. When the electric field is turned on, bacteria are captured on the electrodes (Figure 4). After the electric field is turned off, the effluent sample is collected. Sample processing of 1 mL through FS System takes approx. 4 min. In addition, Fluid-Screen has developed an automated method to detect and quantify the number of captured biological particles. Figure 2a from [17], reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (b) The Schematic of the FS Flow Microfluidic Chip with a visible electrode. — astro-ph.IM

Evidence of chemical disequilibria and other anomalous observations in the Venusian atmosphere motivate the search for life within the planet’s temperate clouds. To find signs of a Venusian aerial biosphere, a dedicated astrobiological space mission is required.

Venus Life Finder (VLF) missions encompass unique mission concepts with specialized instruments to search for habitability indicators, biosignatures and even life itself. A key in the search for life is direct capture, concentration and visualization of particles of biological potential. Here, we present a short overview of Fluid-Screen (FS) technology, a recent advancement in the dielectrophoretic (DEP) microbial particle capture, concentration and separation.

FS is capable of capturing and separating biochemically diverse particles, including multicellular molds, eukaryotic cells, different species of bacteria and even viruses, based on particle dielectric properties. In this short communication, we discuss the possible implementation of Fluid-Screen in the context of the VLF missions, emphasizing the unique science output of the Fluid-Screen instrument.

FS can be coupled with other highly sophisticated instruments such as an autofluorescence microscope or a laser desorption mass spectrometer. We discuss possible configurations of Fluid-Screen that upon modification and testing, could be adapted for Venus.

We discuss the unique science output of the FS technology that can capture biological particles in their native state and hold them in the focal plane of the microscope for the direct imaging of the captured material. We discuss the challenges for the proposed method posed by the concentrated sulfuric acid environment of Venus’ clouds. While Venus’ clouds are a particularly challenging environment, other bodies of the solar system, e.g., with liquid water present, might be especially suitable for Fluid-Screen application.

Robert E. Weber, Janusz J. Petkowski, Monika U. Weber

Comments: Published in Aerospace as a part of the Special Issue “The Search for Signs of Life on Venus: Science Objectives and Mission Designs” (this https URL)
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Other Quantitative Biology (q-bio.OT)
Cite as: arXiv:2211.04572 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2211.04572v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Journal reference: Aerospace. 2022; 9(11):692
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Submission history
From: Janusz Petkowski
[v1] Tue, 8 Nov 2022 21:45:28 UTC (816 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻