Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"CHIPS: NASA preps labs-on-chip for space exploration"
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is harnessing lab-on-chip technology to detect life on other planets and monitor microbes inside spacecraft. Employing recent advances in microfluidic and sensor technology, NASA scientists are engineering an array of labs-on-chip. Each is specialized to detect certain types of life. "Lab-on-a-chip technology is maturing rapidly here on Earth, but to use it in spacecraft or on other planets we need to develop a set of unique chips with miniaturized controllers and analysis units so that scientists can conduct many different chemical and biological assays with each lab-on-a-chip," said Lisa Monaco, the project scientist for the Lab-on-a-Chip Applications Development program at NASA. "Lab-on-a-chip technology can be used to detect bacteria and life-forms on Earth and other planets as well as for protecting astronauts by monitoring crew health and detecting microbes and contaminants in spacecraft," said Helen Cole, project manager for the Lab-on-a-Chip Applications Development program. On Earth, early implementations of lab-on-chip technologies include home pregnancy tests as well as doctors' in-office tests for strep throat. These one-shot labs-on-a-chip mix, concentrate and control a specialized test that yields quick results in an inexpensive disposable device. But for use in space, almost everything about their design has to changed.
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