Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Technology Enrolled in Hunt for Life on Mars

12.06.2008
Scientists looking for evidence of life on Mars have turned to technology invented by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers to help with their mission.

A team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has created a device for use on the European ExoMars rover mission scheduled for launch in 2013. That space voyage is one of several planned expeditions to the red planet that will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Phoenix mission, which landed on Mars late last month and this week began preparing to test soil samples.

The microfluidic or “lab-on-a-chip” device – which takes its name from the fact that the credit-card sized invention can perform multiple detailed laboratory tests – could be used to analyze Martian soil and rock for traces of biological compounds such as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

But until they turned to materials called perfluoropolyethers (PFPEs), which were first pioneered for use in the field of microfluidics by Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D., Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and his colleagues in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, the NASA team was having trouble making a chip that could withstand the rigors of the proposed mission.

Jason Rolland, Ph.D., who helped invent PFPE materials for microfluidic devices when he was a graduate student in DeSimone’s lab, said the tiny apparatus handle very small volumes of liquids through tiny channels, and are similar to microelectronic chips, but for fluids. The elastic nature of PFPEs makes it possible to incorporate moving parts such as tiny valves into the devices.

In a paper co-written by Rolland and published recently in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip, the NASA team, led by Peter Willis, Ph.D., said devices made using PFPE membranes sandwiched between layers of glass were easier to make and greatly outperformed other materials such as PDMS and PTFE, commercially known as Teflon®.

The chips also held up to severe stress testing, surviving the equivalent of 1 million operations at temperatures ranging from 50 degrees Celsius to minus 50 degrees Celsius virtually unscathed.

“It turned out that the material fit right into the sweet spot of what NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed to enable this device to work,” said Rolland, co-founder and director of research and development at Liquidia Technologies, a company which licensed the PFPE technology from UNC.

“There are several reasons to suspect that amino acids and other biological molecules could be found on the surface of Mars,” Rolland said. “If this device is able to confirm this, it would obviously be one of the most important discoveries of all time. It’s exciting to think that UNC and Liquidia Technologies could be a part of that.”

To see the study, go to: http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/LC/article.asp?doi=b804265a. For more information about Liquidia, go to www.liquidia.com. For information about NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov.

Image: The ExoMars rover (photo credit: European Space Agency): http://uncnews.unc.edu/images/stories/news/science/2008/exomars%20rover_esa.jpg

Note: Rolland can be reached at (919) 991-0835 or Jason.Rolland@liquidia.com.

Patric Lane | newswise
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>