Wednesday, July 29, 2015

UTSA chemist awarded $300K by NASA to build lab-on-a-robot prototype

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Lab-on-a-robot prototype

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(Nov. 6, 2013) -- UTSA chemistry professor Carlos Garcia, UTSA physics professor Arturo Ayon and HJ Science & Technology Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., have been awarded more than $300,000 in NASA funding to build the fourth prototype of a "lab-on-a-robot" (LOAR). The Rover-like prototype will be designed to conduct on-site planetary compositional analysis.

Utilizing wireless technology, the current LOAR is able to navigate to a global position location, acquire an air sample, perform the analysis and send the data to a remote station without exposing the analyst to the testing environment.
Additionally it's equipped with a chemical sensor that sits atop a highly integrated mobile platform. The chemical sensor contains a microchip with the capacity to determine the composition of a sample in a few minutes.

"This lab-on-a-robot could lay the groundwork for the next generation of NASA robotic missions by allowing for the analysis of air samples or biological compounds without the threat of danger to a human operator," said Garcia.

Additionally, the LOAR also could be used commercially to monitor environmental pollutants that could pose a threat to human health or the environment. Evaluation of samples on-site would provide real-time data analysis and reduce the time and costs associated with conventional laboratory techniques.

The original prototype built in 2008 was a collaboration between UTSA chemistry professor Carlos Garcia and UTSA physics professor Arturo Ayon in the Micro-ElectroMechanical systems (MEMS) Laboratory. Subsequent prototypes were joint efforts with the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. A member of that team, Eric Tavares da Costa, will join Garcia's lab to work on the latest LOAR prototype.

The NASA funding will be directed to build the fourth upgraded prototype, using the experience collected during the development of previous versions that were funded through UTSA and the Department of Defense Office of Naval Research.

 

 

Did You Know?

Sometimes you have to see the little picture

UTSA researchers are exploring matter at the atomic level with Helenita. It's one of the most powerful microscopes in the world, with the ability to operate near the theoretical limit of resolution. At 9 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing more than two tons, Helenita can dissect almost anything. With Helenita's resolution, researchers can study particles atom by atom to see how they behave.

That's critical in developing nanotechnology that will help diagnosis early-stage breast cancer or make helmets that are uber strong. Moreover, the detail that Helenita provides will allow nanotechnology researchers to create new therapies and treatments to fight a wide range of human diseases.

Did you know? Helenita can magnify a sample 20 million times its size, which would make a strand of human hair the size of San Antonio.

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July 30, 5 - 7 p.m.

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Join AIA San Antonio’s Women in Architecture group for their networking and happy hour event, where all design professionals are welcome.
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