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In-Flight Lab Analysis

Exploration Medical Capability Project Enhances Astronaut Health

SBIR Spiral Mixer

Developed by SBIR partner, this spiral vortex mixer can be cleaned and reused by reversing the flow direction.  The green color is due to the fluorescent agent used for detection and analysis.

Flight surgeons must periodically check the astronauts’ health status during spaceflight. Current test methods produce waste from the test material and require disposal. Glenn is working with Ames Research Center, the DNA Medical Institute, Case Western Reserve University, and CalTech to create a reusable lab-on-a-chip device.

In this concept, a drop of blood or urine is placed on a small microtest chip. Test results quantifying the health of major organ systems are generally available in a few minutes. While the system currently in use on the ISS performs well, each test requires hardware that must be disposed after one use. Because long duration missions cannot afford the volume associated with disposable devices, this task seeks to develop concepts for making the chips reusable.

Glenn is conducting this work based on their history of agency leadership in microgravity fluid physics and microfluidics. To date, the team defined performance parameters required for the microfluidic channels to be reusable, is working with a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) partner to develop reusable sensing techniques and mixing channels. The team will also evaluate CalTech’s microscope on a chip technology for applicability, as well as systems and concepts developed by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. (NSBRI)

Developed by SBIR partner, these micron-sized strips made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and are able to sense multiple physiological parameters at once.  While not reusable, the size is so small as to make waste negligible.