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Research - Sensors

The Electrochemical Research, Technology, & Engineering Group is engaged in research and technology development of advanced sensors. For example, JPL's Electronic Nose (ENose) developed by the group is an event monitor for near real time air quality monitoring in crew habitat aboard the space shuttle/space station. This is an array–based sensing system which is designed to run continuously and to monitor for the presence of selected chemical species in the air at parts-per-million (ppm) to parts-per-billion (ppb) concentration ranges.

Its mission is to enable space exploration for the benefit of humankind by developing robotic spacecraft and instruments. There have been three phases of development of the JPL Electronic Nose. The third phase of development was designed to monitor spacecraft cabin air quality in near real-time. A technology demonstration of the Third Generation JPL ENose aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was performed in 2008-09 (below).

Analytes and targeted detection concentrations are discussed in previously published papers, as well as on the JPL ENose website (http://enose.jpl.nasa.gov). As a demonstration for use in medical applications, the JPL ENose was used in a pilot study to detect and differentiate brain cancer cells. In this proof-of-concept study, the JPL ENose distinguished the odor signatures of individual organs and glioblastoma and melanoma tumor cell lines. The JPL ENose, with proper sensor selection, can be applied to other earth-based environmental monitoring and medical applications.

(a)The Third Generation JPL ENose
The Third Generation JPL ENose used for the technology demonstration on-board ISS. Sensor unit is enclosed in the Interface Unit which was connected ISS EXPRESS Rack.
Sensing Chamber of the Third Generation JPL ENose sensor unit
Sensing Chamber of the Third Generation JPL ENose sensor unit. Seen are sensor array on 4 chips (8 sensors per chip) optimized for target analytes. The sensing array consists of polymer-carbon, gold and palladium chloride films operating at 25-200 degrees Celsius on Si/alumina substrates. Sensors for temperature, pressure and relative humidity are also included in the sensing chamber.