“Ultra-Sensitive in Situ Raman Detection of Biological Organics”
The major part of this research is to develop an ultra sensitive spectroscopy technique for trace detection using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy.
The effort includes laboratory instrument technique as well as field instrument design. Many functional groups in biological and organic species have strong Raman scattering signals. The biological and structural signatures can be detected in the trace amount species to ppb level. A sensitive Raman technique for detecting biological organics in situ will likely impact the search for life in the following ways: (1) Biological organics detection is one of the scientific focuses of planed samples return from Mars and other Martian analogous samples. (2) Raman spectroscopy enhances the remote sensing capacity and can be developed into a field instrument to search for the evidence of past life on the surface of Mars and other planetary bodies. (3) Understanding physiological changes of cell cultures in microgravity in order to develop countermeasures. We propose to develop an imaging and structural analysis technique, using active Raman spectroscopy. We can further increase the detection sensitivity by using resonant Raman and by using surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). Our techniques will impact several areas of interest: (1) NASA human exploration in space: Novel material development for reduced payload weight, more reliable and sensitive detection and long duration habitat constructions; the trace detection of bio-signatures is related to life evidence in the planned sample returns from Mars for ground studies; sensitive, in-situ remote sensing capacity for portable flight instrument development for upcoming Europa and lunar missions (2) NIH cancer research for high throughput imaging of the abnormal DNA and peptide species in the living tissue and cell environments (3) department of homeland security biological and chemical detections as in-situ screening of explosive and bio-agent.