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
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy