Grant: $149,998 - National Science Foundation - Jul. 1, 2009
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Award Description: This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5) This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project, a collaborative effort between HYRPES, and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany, NY, proposes to revolutionize the field of microcalorimetry with a micromachined biocalorimeter that is faster (15 msec time constant) than conventional devices, more sensitive (2 pico-calories for 10 second integration) and inexpensive enough to be disposable. Microcalorimetry is a critical technique for the measurement of cell metabolism, the identification of drug effects on specific cell types, and the study of protein folding, structural transitions and other biological phenomena. The device will feature one or more sample spaces etched into a silicon chip. Unlike earlier micromachined calorimeters, the high sensitivity is obtained in air, and without the need of a surrounding vacuum, making the new device ideal for studies of cellular metabolism. The overall research objectives are to introduce innovations that optimize and refine our ?PicoCalorimeter? designs to obtain <100 pico-Watt sensitivities in combination with other biological measurements. Selected material tests during Phase I should project the ability to attain this performance and will be the metrics for success and for proceeding with the Phase II. For that second phase, we intend to fabricate PicoCalorimeters with different membrane diameters and numbers of thermocouples, evaluate their physical characteristics, and refine our design rules for commercial instrumentation. The proposed effort introduces a totally new type of microcalorimeter with a set of innovative features enabling measurements that are now impossible. A temperature-sensing mechanism that is fundamentally differential will result in exceptional rejection of spurious background signals. Unlike existing microcalorimeters, the device will be produced on a silicon chip in which the thermal sensing region is supported in air on a silicon nitride membrane that is less than 1 micron thick. The high sensitivity will enable the detection of much smaller sample volumes than ever before, thereby accelerating the time to prepare and investigate many biological reactions. It will also permit the detection of metabolic changes in many fewer cells than before, in some cases in a single cell. Besides basic research in cellular metabolism, enzyme function, functional genomics, and others, the proposed disposable 'PicoCalorimeters' will have a major commercial application to drug development and evaluation, and the detection of a wide range of toxins in liquid samples. The proposed 'PicoCalorimeter' will enable pharmaceutical researchers to evaluate the effects of experimental drugs on specific cell types, in a rapid, disposable test that will require very small sample volumes. They will also contribute to an understanding of gene function, by identifying protein folding and other transitions controlled by genes. Topic and Subtopic: Multi-Functional Materials (MM) - Bio-inspired Materials and Systems (BMS)
Project Description: Goal: The proposed effort develops a new type of calorimeter with pico-calorie sensitivity enabling measurements of cell metabolism. The device is based on a temperature-sensing mechanism on a silicon chip in which the thermal sensing region is supported in air on a silicon nitride membrane that is less than 1 micron thick. First Quarter Accomplishments: 1. We previously had studied various operating modes for PicoCalorimeters: Free-running mode, Isothermal titration mode, and Differential scanning mode. We designed several versions of PicoCalorimeters that accommodate all of these modes. 2. As a collaborative STTR program between HYPRES, and State University of New York at Albany, we held our first meeting in Albany in August and finalized the tasks for the two institutions. 3. We selected materials (Ti and Ni/Cr) as thermocouple electrodes for proof of concept and process development. 4. We developed lift-off processes for making electrodes. 5. We procured preliminary masksets and verified the suitability of the process for PicoCalorimeter development.
Jobs Summary: Subrecipient retained a graduate research assistant. (Total jobs reported: 1)
Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Jul. 1, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.
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