Stockton, Amanda M.

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    Extraterrestrial Organic Analyzers: Microfluidic Approaches to Astrobiology’s Questions
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2016-04-26) Stockton, Amanda M. ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    Microfluidics offers multiple unique and powerful tools with which to address astrobiology’s big questions, including “Is there life beyond Earth?” One key microfluidic technology in the search for life beyond Earth is the Extraterrestrial Organic Analyzer (EOA) microcapillary electrophoresis (CE) laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) detection system. EOA, because it uses a programmable microfluidic architecture (PMA) in tandem with µCE-LIF, enables rapid, automated, and extremely sensitive analyses of organic biomarkers (down to 70 pM or sub pptr) including amines, amino acids, dipeptides, aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The PMA, based on normally-closed or lifting-gate monolithic membrane microvalves, enables automated sample processing with complex fluidic manipulation including mixing, dilution, labeling, and transfer for analysis of multiple compound classes within minutes. EOA technology has been proposed for Mars rover missions and Enceladus fly-by missions. Recent work in our group has looked at hardening the technology for a 50,000g 5 km/s impact mission for Europa. This requires the entire optical subsystem be assembled with sub-micron precision and permanently welded as a single monolithic stack. It also requires that we transition from pneumatically-actuated microvales to hydraulic valves with incompressible fluids. This talk will present an overview of EOA, with detailed descriptions of the microfluidics that makes this technology possible.
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    Looking for life in the icy crust of Europa
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021) Raj, Chinmayee Govinda ; Speller, Nicholas ; Cato, Mike ; Duca, Zachary ; Kim, Jungkyu ; Putnam, Phil ; Epperson, Jason ; Stockton, Amanda M. ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Center for Career Discovery and Development ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Office of Graduate Studies ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Student Government Association ; Georgia Institute of Technology. Professional Education ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is of great scientific interest due to its potential for harboring extraterrestrial life. Rather than directly looking for microbial life using optical microscopes and limiting ourselves to life as we know it on Earth, looking for chemical biosignatures is a more holistic approach to search for life. Biosignatures are chemical marks left behind by life systems indicating their presence. For instance, all life on Earth has amino acids as its building blocks and as genetic information storage packets. Similarly, life on Earth seems to be favored by only one type of salts – chloride. Finding biogenic amino acids and chloride salts in the right levels on Europa could be encouraging. To detect amino acids and salts on Europa, we are developing an in-situ sampler, the Icy Moon Penetrator Organic Analyzer (IMPOA), a coke can-sized device. IMPOA is currently capable of sustaining 55,000 G impact force, penetrates deep into the ice crust, collects samples, and analyzes them. IMPOA uses an optical set up to detect the fluorescence of laser-activated amino acids and an embedded contactless electrochemical conductivity sensor for salt detection.